How Investigative Case Management Solutions Reduce Legal Risk

Detailed documentation and a consistent investigation process can keep your company out of court

Posted by Dawn Lomer in on March 11th, 2013

Mary, one of your most reliable employees, comes to you with a complaint. Her supervisor, Jim, has been making suggestive comments and, despite her requests for him to stop, frequently massages her shoulders when she is sitting at her desk. Although she has told him several times that she doesn’t appreciate the physical attention or comments, he continues to harass her. As much as she dislikes making waves, she feels she cannot continue to work in this environment.

Acting on Complaints

What should you do?:

  1. Ignore it and hope the problem goes away
  2. Tell Mary that handling “minor inconveniences” is just part of working with others
  3. Transfer Mary to another section of the office where Jim doesn’t have access
  4. Transfer Jim to another section of the office, far from Mary
  5. Ask your assistant to start researching video cameras with a view to eventually setting some up in the office to get a better idea of what’s going on
  6. Log the complaint and begin an investigation immediately

If you chose anything besides number 6, you could be setting yourself up for a lawsuit.

Importance of Timing

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The time it takes to investigate an incident varies according to the type and severity of the incident.  But one thing all investigations have in common is that they must begin immediately. Delaying an investigation allows the behavior to continue longer and sends a message that the company doesn’t take misconduct seriously. Knowingly allowing the situation to continue without acting on it is risky.

Another reason to launch an investigation immediately is that corrective action is usually more effective when it is taken soon after the event. And as time goes by, it becomes more difficult to get accurate statements from witnesses and these may be needed in the case of legal action.

What Case Management Can Do

Good investigative case management solutions allow you to log the complaint immediately, no matter where you are, and can automatically assign the case to an investigator, who is notified by an email alert. The investigator can confirm acceptance of the case and begin the investigation immediately. This prompt response can go a long way in court to prove that the company took immediate action.

Managers and other members of the investigative team can assign tasks to each other to keep the investigation moving. When a new task is assigned, an email alerts the recipient and the task is assigned to his or her to do list.

Alerts and reminders can be set by an investigator to ensure the case progresses as planned. This is a great tool for investigators who have established a timeline at the outset of the investigation. Alerts can be created to notify investigators of upcoming due dates, as well as tasks that are overdue. A mechanism for escalation brings high-priority or overdue cases and tasks to the attention of an investigator or manager.

A good case management system will allow investigators to attach evidence to case files with a simple case-to-file email.

Alerts, reminders and escalations are all documented in the investigative case management solution, providing a comprehensive summary of steps taken and proof that the company took an allegation seriously and did its best to investigate it thoroughly. Best of all, comprehensive investigation reports can be created quickly and easily.

So if Mary ever decides to sue the company for not responding appropriately to her harassment complaint, a complete case file will be available to prove that the investigation was conducted promptly, consistently and thoroughly.

Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.