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Discipline / Investigations

Document every step in investigation

Employees who get fired are very likely to file lawsuits. Their lawyers will surely scrutinize your investigation for any evidence that you took shortcuts or were biased in some way against their client. It’s up to HR to prepare for that possibility by showing that the investigation was based on valid business reasons and that you applied the process even-handedly.

OK to discipline worker who filed complaint

Make sure your organization’s supervisors understand that it’s perfectly legal to impose legitimate discipline on an employee who has filed a harassment or discrimination complaint.

Keep it Legal: The case for detailed disciplinary notes

Do you keep detailed disciplinary notes and pass them on to HR? Here’s why, as a manager, you should. If you have to fire a worker and he sues, alleging discrimination because another worker broke the same rule and wasn’t fired, those notes will come in handy. Detailed narratives let you explain why you allowed one worker to get away with a warning or short suspension while you fired another worker who broke the same rule.

The case for behavioral rules

If you don’t have behavioral rules to guide employees or don’t enforce the current ones, you are missing an opportunity to discipline workers appropriately when they cross behavioral lines.

Keep It Legal: Internal investigations—get them right or pay the price

“Investigations are becoming a new and independent source of risk,” attorney Christopher Ward with Foley & Lardner told Business Management Daily during their HR Specialist Summit. “And it’s not simply whether you did an investigation, but whether you did it right. A good investigation usually means a good process.”

Investigate all harassment complaints ASAP

Act fast as soon as you learn an employee has complained about harassment. If you don’t, you may lose the only defense your organization has.

Could lax discipline trigger public outcry?

What should you do when an employee with no prior disciplinary problems is caught behaving in ways most of the public would consider unacceptable? You might be tempted to go easy on the employee. But that could backfire if word gets out and the public wants to know why the employee wasn’t fired.

Investigations: Interview all bystanders

Courts will generally honor employer decisions that seem to have been made in good faith. That includes decisions concerning who was telling the truth about a workplace incident.

Investigate harassment no matter who is implicated

The EEOC does not tolerate employers that ignore sexual harassment by senior leaders. You must immediately investigate such allegations, employing neutral outside investigators if possible.

Investigate suspected FMLA intermittent leave abuse

Dishonest employees often abuse their right to take intermittent FMLA leave. Fortunately, courts grant employers broad leeway to investigate suspicious absences.