A lot of effort goes into deciding which investigation questions to ask during investigation interviews. The questions in each interview need to be tailored to the incident and those you are interviewing in order to gather all of the necessary information. This article will focus on initiating the interview with each candidate and questions that are important to ask the complainant. The complainant interview tends to be a bit longer, as they are the first interviewed and usually are the greatest source of information regarding the incident.
In the article “Conducting Internal Investigations Of Discrimination And Harassment – Part II” by Kevin B. Leblang and Robert N. Holtzman, they outline some important statements that must be made by the interviewer in order to put the interviewees at ease. They state that you will want to let them know that the company is obligated to investigate all claims that are made- which is why the interview is taking place.
They go on to say that you will then want to let the interviewee know what incident is being investigated, their role in the investigation, how their information will be used, the degree to which the company can keep the information confidential, that the interview must keep all interview matters confidential and assure them that there is a zero tolerance policy regarding retaliation against them for participating in the investigation. Should they feel that any form of retaliation is placed upon them, inform them to come to you immediately to rectify the situation.
It’s important to make these statements before the interview takes place because they answer many of the questions that those being interviewed have on their mind. It’s also a good idea to ask them if they have any questions before the interview begins. Getting these matters out of the way before the interview begins as opposed to addressing them at the end of the interview allows for greater cooperation while questions are being asked- improving the quality of the interview and the investigation. If the interviewee knows that they are being protected, it’s more likely that they will become more open and honest and give as much detail as possible in their answers.
Interviewing the Complainant:
Even though questions need to be tailored specifically to the incident being investigated, there are some core questions that should be addressed and recorded in writing during complainant interviews for all incidents. The EEOC put together a great list of questions to ask during the complainant interview. Here they are below:
- The 5 Ws… and 2 Hs:
- Who committed the alleged harassment?
- What exactly occurred or was said?
- When did it occur and is it still ongoing?
- Where did it occur?
- Why? Are there any indicators that suggest a source motivation for the subject?
- How often did it occur?
- How did it affect you?
- What was your reaction? What was your response when the incident(s) occurred or afterwards?
- Has your job been affected in any way? Has anyone been treating you differently?
- Does anyone else have relevant information regarding this incident? Was there anyone present when the alleged harassment occurred? Did you tell anyone about it? Did anyone see you immediately after the alleged harassment took place?
- Did the person who harassed you harass anyone else? Do you know if there have been harassment complaints made about this person previously?
- Are there any notes, physical evidence, or other documentation regarding the incident(s) that you could provide us with?
- How would you like to see the situation resolved?
- Do you know of any other relevant information?