In today’s work environment, leaders and HR professionals are faced with numerous challenges: managing a multicultural, multigenerational workforce, handling employee work/life balance issues, resolving employee conflict, keeping pace with rapid organizational change, dealing with the changing dynamics of technology and social media–and managing within the boundaries of employment laws that didn’t even exist just a few years ago. And, most managers haven’t been given adequate training and development to handle the full spectrum of HR issues that face them.
And, in the majority of organizations, the task of conducting internal investigations falls to the HR or Employee Relations department. Unfortunately, not all HR professionals who have been given these responsibilities are properly equipped to undertake them. So, the “fly by the seat of one’s pants” approach usually emerges… While most HR professionals are generally knowledgeable about employment laws, organizational policies, and can handle a myriad of employee relations issues, many will also admit they don’t really know how to craft investigative questions, properly document witness statements, handle reluctant witnesses, defuse anger, assess credibility, or–in other words—conduct an effective investigation.
Moreover, HR professionals have to balance the time and resource demands of an investigation with their regular daily workload–a delicate balancing act that may compromise either or both. And, there’s external pressure, too: failure to properly plan and execute an internal investigation may create the impression in court, or before a federal or state agency, that the employer didn’t exercise “reasonable care” in meeting its investigatory obligations.
An effective measure to prevent—or at least mitigate—liability
is the internal investigation.
Investigative challenges are not unique to just private employers. In many public sector organizations there are designated security teams, safety and compliance officers, and/or special investigative units that may be tasked with conducting internal investigations. Investigators in these units tend to come from law enforcement and/or military backgrounds, providing them a solid foundation in investigative techniques and processes. However, these specialized teams may lack a thorough knowledge of anti-harassment, discrimination, and other employment-related regulations. Therefore, it is necessary for these investigators to partner with HR professionals in a relationship that can sometimes be less than synergistic. Conflict between departments is common, as often roles, responsibility, and lines of authority are not clearly defined. And, each department may make the assumption: “we’re in charge of the investigation.” Also, different investigative styles and techniques and organizational politics can easily undermine the investigative process.
We can offer guidance to minimize the potential conflicts and interference that are often present in HR investigations. With our help, we can guide HR and internal investigators through the investigative process, from complaint intake of an employee relations’ issue, to interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence, to preparing a final investigation report that will hold up in court.
We provide our investigative services in the following way:
Step 1: Establish a client relationship:
We first begin with a conference call, a videoconference, or in-person meeting to discuss the case.
Step 2: Case Assessment
We will ask a lot of fact-finding questions to determine the best course of action. This is essential to get the background on the case and determine if the investigation should be conducted in-house with existing HR staff, or if an external investigator should conduct the investigation.
If we just provide consulting only regarding how to handle the case, then we would then proceed with a client engagement agreement for our HR On-Call service.
Step 3: Determine if our HR On-Call Service is beneficial for intermittent assistance:
Through our HR On-Call service we simply bill at $275 per hour prorated to the quarter hour.
So, as an example, if an employee issue were to arise, such as a female employee who alleges that a male coworker is sexually harassing her, we can work with your internal investigator/HR manager to provide coaching and guidance on how to handle the complaint and document it. Additionally, we can provide consulting on how to help the internal investigator develop an investigative strategy, determine who else needs to be involved and why—and how to minimize the potential for retaliation against the complainant and witnesses.
We will provide guidance on how to document a complainant’s statement, conduct witness interviews, how to gather evidence, how to prepare witness statements, and how to write a final report. We also proofread investigative documents and provide feedback to ensure the documentation is clear and unbiased. Furthermore upon conclusion of an investigation, we provide appropriate coaching and guidance regarding disciplinary measures to ensure the organization applies an adequate remedy, to show that it has exercised reasonable care to ensure that the harassment (or other illegal activity) is not repeated. This is particularly important when there has been substantiation of misconduct.
A retainer is generally not needed for HR On-Call or our consulting services; however, for some of the more complex investigations, a retainer of at least $1000 will be needed to begin the engagement. For intermittent consulting, on an as-needed basis to simply consult on employee relations’ issues and to seek our guidance and expertise on how to handle issues as they arise, the HR On-Call service is a perfect fit. A retainer is not required, and at the end at the end of each month, an invoice is sent for whatever consulting time was provided in the preceding month.
Step 4: Investigations: Identifying if External Investigators will be Needed
In addition to providing consulting on internal HR investigations, we can also provide you with trained investigators–who will conduct an independent, unbiased investigation for you. Our investigators are all seasoned, licensed professionals, and come from a variety of career backgrounds. Some of our investigators have worked as HR consultants and attorneys, and others have more asset protection and corporate security backgrounds, to investigate cases involving workers’ comp fraud, conflict of interest, and theft cases. Some of our investigators have been conducting investigations for more than 30 years.
The cost to hire an external investigator depends upon numerous factors, such as the location(s) to where an investigator must travel, the approximate length of the investigation, whether or not the case is based in the U.S., if surveillance assistance will be needed, if multiple investigators will be needed on the case, as well as simply the type of case. For more complex cases, such as embezzlement, it would require securing an investigator with specific expertise in forensic accounting.
Generally speaking, HR and employee relations’ cases involving allegations of harassment or discrimination, the cost is usually a range of $7,000 to $12,000. However, more complex cases can exceed $15,000 if more hours are required for evidence collection. For cases that may only take an investigator a few days to wrap up, the cost may be less than $3,500. So, there are many factors that affect the cost for hiring an external investigator. However, our initial consultations are always complimentary and after that we can determine which of our investigators is a “fit” for the case. And, we can then provide a cost breakout and prepare a client engagement agreement.
We are happy to discuss your situation and determine the best way to help you manage your employee relations’ issues.
For more information, please contact us at Info@HR-investigations.com or give us a call at (800) 517-7129 and press extension 2 for Client Services.
For more info about our HR On-Call service, please click here: HR On-Call