Q & A – What do I do if the workplace investigation reveals that it is one person’s word against another?

Q. What do I do if the workplace investigation reveals that it is one person’s word against another?

S. Let’s start with what not to do here. Do not summarily declare the investigation “inconclusive” and return to business as usual with a quick redistribution of your EEO policy. This is the “He said-She said” scenario, which tends to assume that the alleged incident occurred in a vacuum leaving no other information available to support the investigator’s assessment of which party is telling the truth. Carefully pursue and identify more facts and history to see if you are persuaded that one party is more believable. Credibility assessments in investigations are difficult, but necessary.

At MSEC, we advise that employers should consider the obligation to resolve such direct conflict scenarios (“He said-She said”) as directly proportional to the severity of the allegations in conflict. The more serious the claim, the more important it is to make a good faith assessment of who is telling the truth. The only thing the investigator knows for certain here is that someone is lying. Also, recognize that to take no action in this circumstance, in fact, tacitly supports a different version than that presented by the complainant. Courts support employers following a reasonableness standard toward making a good faith determination of credibility based on available information at the time – even where evidence later proves the employer was wrong. “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt” is for criminal courts and “inconclusive” determinations should not be used as a shield to avoid tough decisions.

Contact MSEC at 800.884.1328 for more information.