Whether you run a large global operation or a small business, if you have employees, you are bound to encounter instances when one employee complains about another – or when a customer or vendor has a beef about someone working for you.
How you handle these complaints is critically important.
First let’s start with things business owners or managers should never do in these cases:
- Don’t joke about the incident with others.
- Don’t rush to judgment and take sides.
- Don’t fire the complainer.
- Don’t begin texting, e-mailing, using social networking or otherwise discussing the complaint with others.
Here are seven best practices for investigating complaints against employees:
- When one co-worker or an outside party makes a complaint against another co-worker for acts of misconduct or violations of company policy, or when it is reported to a manager or a manager otherwise learns that an employee may have engaged in misconduct or violation of company policy, an investigation will need to be conducted into each complaint by the manager (with the assistance of a higher level manager and/or Human Resources) prior to determining further action (such as imposing any discipline).
- Typically, all investigations will require obtaining signed written statements by the complaining party and any witnesses as to the who, what, where, when, why; the gathering and reviewing of any audio or video footage of the incident; and the gathering and reviewing of any relevant documentation about any prior counseling/disciplinary action.
- Typically, the manager responsible for the investigation should not settle for general or conclusory answers; he or she should make sure to get the full picture. Get both sides of the story – arbitrators and courts will react more favorably if the evidence establishes that the employer conducted a fair, even-handed and thorough investigation before acting.
- The manager responsible for the investigation should provide the higher level manager and/or Human Resources with a statement as to how the manager became aware of the incident and what was done to investigate. JUST STICK TO THE FACTS! Do not provide any extraneous personal commentary, opinions or thoughts.
- Send all information from the investigation to the higher level manager and/or Human Resources for review before addressing any incident with an employee accused of wrongdoing.
- Depending on the nature of the incident, and only after consultation with the higher level manager and/or Human Resources (and outside counsel when necessary), a determination needs to be made as to whether, when and in what format (in-person or in-writing) the employee accused of wrongdoing will be asked to respond and what information will be shared with the employee.
- For complaints of serious or significant acts of misconduct or violations of company policy, an employee accused of wrongdoing may be suspended immediately pending the outcome of the investigation and/or after the incident has been addressed with them. Suspension may be with pay or without pay (depending on circumstances and applicable law).
If you’re an employer and have concerns about how to handle a complaint about an employee, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm –in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in Connecticut. What’s more, each of our attorneys have over 20 years of experience in employment law and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
Photo credit: IntelFreePress via StoolsFair / CC BY
The information provided above is made available by Kainen, Escalera & McHale, P.C. for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide specific legal advice to your individual circumstances or legal questions. You acknowledge that neither your reading of, nor posting on, this site establishes an attorney-client relationship between you and our law firm, or any of the attorneys in our firm. This information should not be used as a substitute for seeking competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state nor is it provided for the specific purpose of soliciting your business on any particular matter. Readers of this information should not act upon anything communicated in it without seeking professional counsel.