The Benefit of Neutral, Third-Party Investigations

A federal court in Connecticut recently rejected an employer’s attempt to introduce evidence of its internal investigation into an employee’s age discrimination complaint at trial because the court found the investigation to be one-sided. Castelluccio v. International Business Machines (D. Conn. 2013).

The company’s investigation, conducted by an HR representative, concluded that the company had not treated a 60-year-old employee unfairly when it removed him from his position and offered him a severance package. In the investigation, the HR representative reviewed, among other things, feedback about how the employee handled two difficult customer service accounts. The representative did not review the employee’s performance evaluations, interview the employee’s manager, or consider whether age was a factor in the termination.

The court refused to allow the results of the investigation as evidence based on its conclusions that:  the HR representative was not a neutral party; the witnesses and evidence were selected by the HR representative; and there was no opportunity for the employee to rebut the evidence against him. Also damaging was the HR representative’s admission that had the employee accepted the proposed severance agreement, the company would have discontinued its investigation. The court reasoned that if the true purpose of the investigation were to determine the merits of the employee’s claim, the investigation would have continued “irrespective of the specter of litigation.”

This case illustrates the benefit of using a third-party, neutral investigator. Contact our Workplace Investigations staff at 800-884-1328 or investigations@msec.org for information about our services.