Will Your Investigator Spill The Beans? A Lesson From The White House.

Whether it’s your VP of HR, a department manager or an outside investigator, can you be sure your workplace investigator won’t jeopardize the investigation by sharing too much information? We all believe that our people know better than to share the details of an investigation with anyone who does not have a business need to know. But sharing information at the wrong time, even with the right people, can still jeopardize the investigation.Continue reading

DO POLITICAL ARGUMENTS = HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT?

With the vote happening next week in a what may be the most contentious presidential election in U.S. history, HR and Managers need to closely monitor the temperature to make sure conversation do not elevate to the point of bullying or creating a hostile work environment.  According to an article published by SHRM, “Sixty percent of HR professionals said their employees are more vocal about their political opinions than in elections past—meaning workers are more frequently engaging in political discussions or even arguments.” Although this period is temporary, the long-lasting impact on employee relationships may be long lasting or even permanent.

Consider this:

There are 3 employees in the purchasing department, which are housed right next to the two employees in the Shipping and Receiving department. The S&R employees (we’ll call them Bob and Sheila) are very busy in the morning and afternoon, but not as busy mid-day. Both Bob and Sheila back the same candidate, and much of their downtime is spent sharing campaign rhetoric, talking over their cubicles about how no person in their right mind would vote for the other candidate (whom they refer to “That #$@&*%!”). Although the Buyers have discussed among themselves that this makes them uncomfortable, they don’t want to confront Bob and Sheila as they are concerned the behavior will just escalate.

On the day before the election, the first Buyer arrives at work to find a cartoon sketch with the title of “Let’s keep “That #$@&*%!” out of office.” The drawing is a picture of a divided polling place where opposing parties are directed into a separate area where they step through the door to face a firing squad. When the other Buyers arrive, they agree that this is a bit scary and has gone too far. But instead of addressing Bob and Sheila, they decide as a team to ignore them, leave their work on their desks with notes, and avoid any direct contact until things quiet down.

When the manager arrives, and sees the cartoon, he has to decide what step to take next.

  1. Take down the cartoon and tell Bob and Sheila to knock it off, knowing that after the

election things will probably get back to normal.

  1. Make light of the situation so that everyone knows it is not serious and just an

attempt at election humor.

  1. Get HR involved and talk with everyone effected to determine the impact this has

had on the employees.

Remember, the law states that Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Does this rise to the level of a hostile work environment? Maybe, or maybe not.  The point is that employers do not know the impact these situations will have on employees unless they investigate.

An investigation does not need to be a long drawn out chaotic process. In fact, using investigations as a standard business process to determine what is happening in the workplace and taking action or changing processes and/or policies actually drives engagement. When employees know that everyone is held to a common set of rules and expectations, they feel respected and comfortable coming forward, before problems escalate. This allows for a simpler and more immediate resolution.

If you have any questions, or would like to chime in on how your company is working through this election period, I would love to hear your comments.

3 real calls from EEs looking to file claims

I am often asked, “Are employers really still finding reasons to fire employees in order to avoid taking the steps of conducting an investigation?” The answer is, yes! It’s unfortunate, but it is still happening.  InvestiPro received the following three calls from employees who were looking to file a claim against the company that just terminated them. As you know InvestiPro is an online platform for employer use, but employee calls still come in.

Call #1 – I was just fired after having a problem with my boss. They wouldn’t give me a reason and when I asked to see my personnel file, there was nothing in there. Can you help me?

Call #2 – I need to find someone to help me. I have been in my job for a long time and this new girl told HR that I was doing things that I wasn’t doing. The just called me in and fired me for no reason. I didn’t do nothing.

Call #3 – Can you help me report my employer for firing me? I only worked there for a few weeks and my manager was a jerk. He was always in my face, telling me to get a better attitude.  He even called me stupid. I could tell he was talking about me to other employees. Then I called in sick with a headache and they fired me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am pro-employee, and I completely understand that there are times when termination is warranted. I just know that these situations can often be put to rest, and REDUCE THE POTENTIAL FOR LITIGATION, simply by conducting a prompt and impartial investigation. With over 25 years of employee relations experience, I have seen that positive results can come out of implementing an investigation process as a standard business process used to reduce the chaos and hold every employee accountable at the same level. When employees see that a respectful investigation process will be used every time there is a complaint, two things happen. The first is that employees are much less likely to provide a false claim. And the second is that the investigation becomes a way of doing business, leaving employees feeling respected and valued. This essentially removes the fear and drama out of the process. The company receives a complaint, investigates what happened, takes appropriate action or not depending on the findings, and everyone gets back to work. If you take away only one fact from this blog, make it this:

The EEOC historically dismisses over 50% of harassment and discrimination claims based simply on the employer conducting a prompt and impartial investigation.

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 www.investipro.com.

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?

https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/sexual-orientation

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

Need to investigate? www.GoInvestiPro.com!

 

Top 10 Investigation Challenges – Part 3; Ask these five questions to determine if an investigation is required.

In the business world, nothing ever seems to be black and white. Instead, the daily grind comes in many shades of gray (way more than 50!).  This too applies when a complaint is received by an employee, leaving the manager or HR representative to determine credibility of the claim and decide whether an investigation is required.

Although workplace investigations most often are thought of in regard to sexual harassment and other offensive conduct within the workplace, an investigation may be warranted and useful in the workplace even if the reported behavior does meet the legal definitions of harassment, but instead may violate company policy or standards.  Under federal law, failure to investigate and act on a complaint of discriminatory comments, improper verbal or physical contact, or even what may seem to be a few isolated jokes, may quickly develop into a harassment claim and an investigation is often required.

To determine if an investigation is warranted, ask the following 5 questions: Continue reading