The 5 Worst Reasons for Not Conducting HR Investigations.

If you ask a CEO or HR professional if they conduct HR investigations, they will say “of course”. But when you dig in a bit further, all too often there is an “unless” statement. Here are some of the worst reasons that I have heard so far this year:

Of course we do investigations, unless….


  1. the owners tell us not to because they don’t want the story to get out and upset the workforce.


  1. it’s open enrollment. We have to prioritize and getting employees enrolled in benefits is more important.


  1. the complaint is about someone in the sales department. The culture with them is different, and the Director prefers to handle issues in his department himself.


  1. the HR manager is out. There is no one else trained to do investigations, so if she is out for more than a week, by the time she returns it is generally too late.


  1. it’s a situation that we think will open a whole can of worms. Let’s face it, there are some people who will not change their behavior and the company won’t discipline them, so it’s better to just leave it alone.


Conducting a thorough and unbiased workplace investigation is the single best way to protect the company from liability. Although some employers are still fearful that an investigation will increase potential liability, the statics show this to be untrue.


In most cases, employees know what is happening in the workplace long before management or HR. Not acting is a clear message to employees that that rules don’t apply to everyone, and civility in the workplace is not a company priority.


Send employees the right message by clearly communicating your investigation process to reduce fear and ensure accountability across the entire organization. Then, investigate every time a situation of improper behavior comes to light to earn trust within your workforce.


Want to simplify your workplace investigations?  Learn more at

Is it enough that your company has an open-door policy?

At almost every job I have ever had, I was told during orientation or in the handbook that HR (and in some cases, management) had an open-door policy. And yes, the policies that I wrote as an HR professional contained that verbiage as well. But what does it mean? As an employee, I suppose I thought that meant that I could come to HR or a manager at any time to talk about anything I thought they ought to know. Looking back at whether that made a difference in when or how I brought up issues in the workplace, or whether I chose to bring an issue forward at all, I truly don’t think it did. This caused me to consider what may have made a difference, and how I would change the policy going forward.

Opinions on the “Open-door Policy” have waivered back and forth over the years. For example, Forbes Magazine has published for open-door policies ( and against them (  And both sides have good points. Open-door policies can reduce manager performance as some employees see this as enabling them to just come in and shoot the breeze whenever they see fit. However, the policies also allow employees to come forward when they have a suggestion or complaint that really needs to be heard.

When business professors James R. Detert (Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University) and Amy Edmonson (Harvard Business School) set out to analyze the reasons behind fear of coming forward with information at work, their study found that having an open-door policy did not reduce the fear of coming forward. Why? Self-preservation. The professors explain:

“In our interviews, the perceived risks of speaking up felt very personal and immediate to employees, whereas the possible future benefit to the organization from sharing their ideas was uncertain. So people often instinctively played it safe by keeping quiet.”

It is time to ask ourselves if our open-door policies are enough to drive the type of change we need to see in our organizations. In my opinion, the answer is no. In our previous blog post (#noretaliation), we provide helpful hints for HR professionals and Managers, to encourage workers to come forward. We need to demonstrate and invite open communication and reiterate our policies that prevent retaliation when employees speak up.

At InvestiPro, we have chosen to move forward with three steps to help employees bring their voices forward.

  1. Our Code of Civility will be prominently posted in the office for all to see. It will define how we will treat each other, speak to each other and show respect to each other, in all levels of the company.
  2. Our open-door policy will be changed to an open-communications policy that will define how we approach each other in both positive and challenging situations, and will include strong statements against retaliation and accountability.
  3. We will provide training to employees on communication skills that will help build confidence in raising issues that drive toward a constructive outcome.

As with everything in business, we don’t always know the impact that changes will have in the long run. But we have to start somewhere, and I am feeling optimistic.

EEOC to Focus on “Holistic Prevention Programs” to Prevent Harassment.

With the release of the EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for 2017 – 2021, it is time to take a look at your Complaint, Investigation and Prevention processes and procedures. The SEP outlines the EEOC’s principal areas of focus for the next four years. According to the plan, the EEOC will increase efforts to ensure that employers implement processes that will serve as a deterrent to violations. Will your current processes meet that requirement?

In short, the EEOC wants to see that employers are taking steps to prevent harassment and discrimination, which most frequently are based on sex, race, disability, age, and national origin.

To assess your prevention program, ask the following 7 questions:

  1. How often are your employees being trained?
  2. Is your training current and relevant?
  3. Are your managers actively looking for signs of harassment and discrimination in the workplace?
  4. Are employees encouraged to bring their concerns forth, and provided a safe and comfortable means of doing so?
  5. Does the company have a standard business processes in place that will allow immediate response to complaints in order to determine if an investigation is necessary?
  6. Is your investigation process compliant, consistent and unbiased?
  7. Does your process include a plan for returning to work after an investigation without judgment or retaliation?

I am hopeful that you are taking a sigh of relief right now because your processes are buttoned up. But if not, it’s time to add this to your priority list. And remember, InvestiPro can help.


You can review the entire EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan at, or read a simple overview provided by Fox Rothschild.

Can Your Company Afford $22,500 in Lost Productivity…Per Employee?

Over the weekend, I came across an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review titled, Why We Fail to Report Sexual Harassment. The article addressed the fact that despite employer efforts to train staff and investigate complaints, the majority of employees affected by harassment, whether victims or bystanders, do not report the incidents.  That fact did not surprise me. Nor did the fact that 75% of the women they interviewed stated that they had at some point been sexually harassed at work. What did get my attention was this:

Researchers estimate that sexual harassment costs organizations $22,500 a year in lost productivity for each employee affected.”

Let’s look at an example. In this case, there is a company with corporate headquarters in the front half of the building and manufacturing in the back. At the entrance to a testing section in a back area that is predominantly male, there is a poster of a seductively posed woman, with very little clothing. Managers rarely have a need to enter this small area and have failed to notice or decided that this is not harmful. What they do not realize is that there is a female working in shipping that enters that area daily and she is quite uncomfortable. One day she asked the Lead in the testing area to take it down. He responded by laughing and making a loud comment that “The boys need a reason to come to work, but if you would give us a picture of you to look at, we’ll take the other one down.”

Based on the findings of the study, this employee is likely to experience stress each day when she needs to go into that room, become sick more often and miss work, lose interest in doing her job well in order to progress with the company, and spend additional time each day doing other things to keep her mind off of work. Yes, over a year that could easily amount to $22, 500 in lost productivity.

However, this is not where it stops. If this employee is experiencing that type of harassment, she will likely talk about it with 2-3 other employees who then are likely to feel uncomfortable as well. And then we need to consider the employee from Quality Control that goes into the work are daily. And the fill-in tester that works in the room at least once per week. And the Accounting Clerk that goes into that area to check serial numbers. That’s six additional employees – with a total productivity loss of $155,500 per year. And this does not take into account the cost of replacing these employees when they decide to leave.

When you look at the monetary effect of harassment in the workplace, it becomes very clear that companies need to take a more active role in preventing harassment from happening. Here are a few ideas.

  1. Make sure managers are walking around and interacting with all of their direct and indirect reports on a regular basis.
  2. Establish and communicate clear rules against posting of pictures, sending improper emails, or using unacceptable language in the workplace.
  3. Enforce the rules at all levels.
  4. Investigate – Not just when a complaint arises, but anytime there are signs of harassment in the workplace.

Remember, the law holds employers accountable when they knew, or should have known, that harassment was taking place.

When it’s time to investigate,!

Is McDonalds Corp. a co-employer of franchise employees?

Independent franchise owners need to watch for the court decision on this as it could have wide spread implications. As explained in this article published yesterday by SHRM,  15 Employees filed sexual harassment claims in which McDonalds Corp. was named a co-employer. Needless to say, the outcome of this will have a serious impact on the franchiser/franchisee relationship, and how business agreements are set up moving forward. Not just for McDonalds and the restaurant industry, but all franchise relationships. That being said, whether or not the franchiser (McDonalds in this case) is found to be held liable as a co-employer, this does not relive the independent franchisees of their responsibility to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into these complaints. Investigating complaints is not just the law, it is the right thing to do. Failing to investigate is costly. Taking retaliatory action may entitle the victim to punitive damages, at the discretion of a jury. This is where the high dollar settlements come into play. This is easy to prevent folks. Complaint = Investigation. Every time!

Not sure how to conduct a proper investigation, check out

Top 3 Reasons employers avoid investigations; and why they shouldn’t.

Ask any manager or business owner which two words they hate to hear the most from HR, and you are likely to get a response of “workplace investigation”.  Those words have a bad reputation for leading to things like, litigation, termination and other …tion words that we would all rather avoid. But avoiding the investigation is not the answer. Here are the three top reasons employers avoid investigations, and why they don’t hold weight.

Avoidance #1: If we conduct an investigation, it is just going to create more liability for the company.Continue reading

First Sexual Orientation Harassment Case Settled by the EEOC.

This is an important article on how the EEOC is looking at sexual orientation claims. It’s a worthwhile read as the determination will have far reaching implications moving forward. Notice the employer did not conduct an investigation, but rather decided to terminate the employee costing them a hefty settlement in the end. How does your company handle employee complaints?

Harassment is bad. Retaliation is worse. Failure to Investigate creates liability.

Need to investigate?!