Investigation Interview Tips: Questions for Subjects and Witnesses

EEOC

Aside from the basics outlined by the EEOC, more specific questions depend on the type of incident and allegations.

In one of our previous posts, we discussed some of the  investigation  questions to ask when interviewing a complainant. This is an important interview and is usually the first, but investigators also need to interview the subject (the person accused of misconduct) and any witnesses. The EEOC has created a list of questions to ask during the subject and witness interviews, but depending on the type of incident being investigated and the allegations made by the complainant, more detailed and case-specific questions will also need to be addressed.

Interviewing the Subject

In most cases, the subject of an investigation will be interviewed after the complainant has already been questioned. It’s natural for a person who has been accused of misconduct to behave defensively. When interviewing the subject, an investigator should treat the person fairly and with respect. The investigator should also be careful not to convey the impression that he or she is “out to get” the subject or thinks the subject is guilty.  At the same time, the investigator should make it clear that the company takes the complaint seriously and intends to conduct a thorough, impartial investigation. The subject should also be reminded that the company has a legal obligation to investigate.

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This is the perfect time to reiterate any corporate rules, zero tolerance mandates, and to advise that if found to have committed the reported offense, the subject can face discipline up to and including immediate termination.

Mandatory questions to ask the subject, as outlined by the EEOC in this report, consist of the following:

  • What is your response to the allegations?
  • If the harasser claims that the allegations are false, ask why the complainant might lie.
  • Are there any persons who have relevant information?
  • Are there any notes, physical evidence, or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?

Interviewing Witnesses:

After meeting with the complainant and the subject, the investigator is usually faced with a “he said/she said” situation. The truth often lies somewhere in between, and other witnessesare integral sources of information to balance the facts. Interviewing witnesses is similar to interviewing the complainant and accused. Consider carefully the purpose of the meeting with each witness and tailor the interview and the questions asked to that purpose.

Mandatory questions to ask witnesses, as outlined by the EEOC, consist of the following:

  • What did you see or hear?
  • When did this occur?
  • Describe the alleged harasser’s behavior toward the complainant and toward others in the workplace.
  • What did the complainant tell you? When did they tell you this?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?
  • Are there other persons who have relevant information?

i-Sight Investigation Software

i-Sight uses an electronic case file to store all case related information – including interview notes and witness statements. Investigators can quickly add new contacts to the case file – subjects, complainants and others. Once the contact exists in the case file the investigators can quickly add notes or attach files – many i-Sight customers will attach witness statements, or audio/video interviews.  As the investigations proceeds all the case related information is  captured and stored for reporting purposes.

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Article Published March 5, 2010

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