Ensuring fairness in a workplace investigation requires careful management of competing interests. Specifically, a workplace investigator is expected to maintain a balance in reviewing a complainant’s concerns and the reply from the respondent(s).
The tendency to jump to conclusions must be avoided. Thoroughness is specifically required to ensure that a workplace investigation is carried out fairly and that the conclusions are defensible.
If an employee is not treated fairly in an investigation process, the findings can be determined to be faulty regardless of the reasonableness of the final decision. This is because a court or administrative tribunal that is reviewing the matter may determine that the investigation process was improper based on procedural fairness.
If a workplace investigation is found to be faulty, this may result in a court or administrative body overturning the findings of the investigation and ordering that the investigation be redone (in full or part). This can result not only in additional costs but also in awards, such as back wages, to the impacted employee(s).
Having an outside workplace investigations professional handle an employee complaint can ensure the investigation is conducted fairly and helps protect the outcome from judicial or administrative scrutiny.