Respond to Employee Complaints and Address Misconduct without Getting Sued! CEA's HR professionals can assist you with internal workplace investigations
- A new employee tells you they saw someone take an expensive piece of equipment from the building.
- An employee reports that he/she was harassed by another employee or a supervisor.
- An employee reports that a co-worker is violating a company policy.
In cases involving allegations of harassment or workplace safety violations, California law requires employers to investigate. When you uncover employee wrong doing, or an employee comes to you with a complaint, you have to be ready to investigate!
Who Can Legally Conduct Fact-finding Investigations in California?
As an employer you have three choices in how to investigate workplace issues:
- Internal Investigation. Your internal staff may legally perform fact-finding investigations. However, when an internal employee investigates a grievance, questions of neutrality often arise. Unless, you have a dedicated investigator on staff, it is unlikely that you have the legal knowledge to protect your company.
- CEA Assistance. CEA HR professionals can assist your staff in conducting an internal investigation. This approach protects your company from the legal pitfalls (see "protected classes" below) enables someone from your staff to learn how to conduct future investigations, and is cost effective. Call CEA for more information. CEA ensures all investigations meet EEOC guidelines.
- Use of Private Investigators and Attorneys. When you don't want to conduct the interview yourself, and you don't want to include a staff in the process, you must use a private investigator or licensed attorney. CEA has a licensed attorney on staff who can conduct a workplace investigation for you. We can also provide you with partner referrals to qualified private investigators, Williams Investigations as well as employment law attorneys. Remember to mention CEA for the best possible pricing.
Article on workplace investigations.
Various federal and state Equal Employment Opportunity (DFEH/EEOC) laws govern discrimination and harassment. The various laws create what are known as “protected classes.” If a person is in a “protected class” and is treated differently because of his or her membership in that class, then the treatment violates these laws. “Protected classes” created by these laws include gender, race/color, national origin, religion, age and disability. It also prohibits retaliation.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race/color, gender, national origin and religion. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. Harassment on the basis of race/color, national origin or religion is also a prohibited form of discrimination under the act.
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination and harassment on the basis of the disability.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination in employment. It also prohibits harassment on the basis of age.
In California, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA) protects the people of California from unlawful discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, and from the perpetration of such acts of hate violence.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides protection from harassment or discrimination in employment because of age, ancestry, color, religious creed, denial of family and medical care leave, disability (mental and physical) including HIV and AIDS, marital status, medical condition, national origin, race, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sex and sexual orientation.
Allegations/complaints of violations of these protected classes in the work environment benefit from an early, independent and thorough investigation of the charges. Follow-up by the employer with appropriate action (training, discipline, changing policies/procedures, etc.), if warranted, is key to minimizing an employer’s exposure.