When preparing for the investigation process, it’s important that managers and all the investigation team members focus on ensuring the integrity of the investigation in order to reduce the overall corporate risk and potential exposure. The steps you take to prepare for the internal investigation process can have a big impact on the overall success of the investigation.
We want to help you get off on the right foot during the internal investigation preparation process, so we’ve included some useful links at the bottom of our post and we’ve provided a few ideas in this post to help you out.
When preparing for an internal investigation, all goals are to be accomplished with integrity, fairness, impartiality and respect. Goals should assist you to set a timeline for the completion of the investigation. Goals should include the following:
- Gather the facts
- Determine the merits of the complaint or allegation
- Comply with legal obligations
- Maintain confidentiality to the greatest extent possible
- Preserve the reputations of individuals and company
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- Take proper remedial action
- Avoid liability
- Prevent future claims
Select an Investigator:
As we mentioned in our post yesterday, 8 Internal Investigation Tips, selecting an appropriate investigator for each case is crucial first step. In that post we also explained how i-Sight simplifies the assignment process and makes it less time consuming. i-Sight allows you to create automated assignment rules to ensure that every case is promptly assigned and that no cases fall through the cracks.
The same person isn’t going to be right for every internal investigation. Many of our clients use multiple investigators in highly complex cases or in cases where timing is a critical factor. It’s especially important to pay attention to the positions and authority of the complainant and subject, as well as any cause for bias an investigator might evoke among witnesses. This can have a significant impact on the investigation.
Seeking out appropriate investigators is not always an easy task. Here are some key characteristics successful investigators must demonstrate:
- Active listener
- Ability to process and rapidly respond to new information
- Strong critical thinking skills
- Solid knowledge of company policies and practices
- Technical qualifications will depend on the type or complaint at issue, for example, an accounting background might be necessary for charges of financial mismanagement.
It’s important to determine which legal issues the complaint deals with, as well as collecting statements and evidence regarding the complaint. The employer must preserve all electronic data- everyone participating in the investigation should be instructed to preserve (never delete) any electronic communications and the IT department should preserve all archived and taped materials.
i-Sight employs have a series of back-up procedures to ensure that case information is never lost – even in the case of disaster. i-Sight has daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly back-up routines that ensure case information is held in three secure locations. i-Sight uses an off-site disaster recovery location to ensure that our clients are covered in the case of disaster.
Relevant physical evidence usually includes:
- Written complaint
- Witness statements
- Personnel file
- Written policies
- Computer records
i-Sight makes this process much simpler than it sounds. By providing a centralized area for all evidence to be attached to a case as you and your team work on it, evidence stays in one spot and is readily available to all investigators on the case.
You must review the personnel history of any possible witnesses in order to determine relationships and potential biases to ensure that you select appropriate witnesses to interview. Witnesses help bring more credibility to the case and can provide you with valuable information that may not be divulged by the complainant or the subject.
Once the potential witness profiles have been reviewed, the investigator is now prepared to identify key witnesses to interview. The investigator should generally interview the complainant first, the subject next, key witnesses and then other possibly related witnesses.
Once the order has been established, the investigator should prepare a chronology of events and an outline for each witness. Outline topics may include:
- Review of applicable company policies, including how they are communicated to employees, whether followed, etc.
- Summary of the complaint, including how the employer received notice, as well as a chronology of important events
- The names and identities of all relevant witnesses with notes on relevant background and relationships to complainant and accused
- Relevant employment information of the complainant, the accused and the key witnesses
- Specific information for each identified incident (who, what, when, where, why)
- Identity of other possible witnesses, new leads and new documents
- A conflict check procedure to resolve conflicting witness accounts without identifying the witness.