Workplace Harassment Investigations: What You Should Know
Regardless of where you work, you have the right to feel safe. That’s why Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) sets out obligations and regulations that employers must follow to protect their workers.
Whether you are an employer tasked with conducting an investigation or are an employee needing guidance, having the basic information is important.
The Workplace Investigation
Provided that it is appropriate under the circumstances, allegations of workplace harassment should be investigated for a range of reasons. From determining the cause of the incident and finding ways to prevent future occurrences to ascertaining whether there were compliance issues, the effort ought to be directed at taking corrective measures.
During an investigation, there should be a focus on ensuring:
- That the investigation is detailed and thorough. Throughout the process, efforts should be made to conduct comprehensive interviews, take notes, and collect any relevant documents, physical evidence, and other types of important, factual information
- That the investigation remain confidential in order to protect the parties involved. Unless absolutely necessary, details of the investigation or the people involved should not be divulged.
- That the investigation begin as soon as possible following the complaint, unless extenuating circumstances make this impossible
- That the investigation proceed objectively. If necessary, an impartial third party may be called in to provide support.
The Workplace Investigator
Leading a workplace investigation is a serious undertaking, especially when you consider how much is at stake. Depending on the allegation and on the nature of the incident, the alleged victim and harasser stand to suffer significant consequences based on the outcome.
While an investigation can be done internally, it is critical that the individual chosen is keenly aware of the any workplace harassment provisions in place. They should have extensive knowledge as to how their workplace handles these investigations and must understand the company’s policies.
Working with a lawyer experienced in workplace investigations can help ensure that the process goes smoothly and without incident. An investigator with a legal background will have the training and experience required to provide fair, time-sensitive, and exhaustive investigations. They are also positioned to help with any legal matters that may present themselves as a result of the investigative process.
Being affected by workplace harassment is stressful. Having the right information and support can go a long way in helping a difficult situation more manageable.