Q & A – What do I communicate to the complaining party and the accused at the end of a workplace investigation?

detective-badge.jpgQ.  What do I communicate to the complaining party and the accused at the end of a workplace investigation?

A.  Employers should meet with the complainant and the accused at the investigation’s conclusion to inform them that the investigation has ended, provide them with a simple summary of the investigation findings, and to remind them of continuing employer expectations – such as a prohibition against retaliation and expectation to use complaint procedures to identify new or continuing concerns. Complainants often want to know about disciplinary action for the accused. Deny this inquiry as a rule. Explain that personnel actions are confidential and treated as such, just as you would not disclose disciplinary action against the complainant outside those with a need to know. Do provide assurance that where inappropriate conduct has been identified the employer has taken action calculated to stop it and prevent it in the future. Emphasize the importance of moving forward in a professional and productive environment and the necessity of immediately reporting continuing problems and instances of perceived retaliation. Similarly, the accused should be reminded of avoiding even the semblance of retaliation, regardless of the outcome of the investigation. For example, a complaint of “hostile work environment” that does not result in formal discipline against the accused does not make the complainant a liar subject to discipline or any treatment that might dissuade a future complaint.