Investigative Reporting

by Evil HR Lady on September 19, 2006

When you are bored, you probably do something interesting like playing sports or perhaps watch television. Evil HR Lady surfs the web for new employment law information. (I’m this fun at parties too!)

I found this presentation on retaliation. This isn’t some adventure movie information. It’s all about how to avoid retaliation against a whistle-blowing employee.

Good information from Morgan Lewis, a law firm that handles employment law (among other specialities).

Now, in case any of you are still awake after reading the thrilling paragraphs above, after reading that I read Why Parents Who Batter Win Custody. What do the two things have in common?

Well, if Sarah Childress, the author of the above custody article, worked for me investigating retaliation claims I would fire her in retaliation for being so incredibly biased in her report. (And I believe–not being a lawer after all–I would have great legal grounds for doing so.)

Our friendly lawyers at Morgan Lewis give instructions on how to conduct an investigation (see page 18)

How to do it right
• Be aware of and follow established investigation
• Act promptly
• Be objective and neutral and keep an open mind
• Consistency and respect are key

Ms. Childress is not conducting an investigation, but she is writing about results of investigations. She writes

It may seem hard to fathom how a judge could award custody to a parent accused of abuse.

What about also writing, “It may seem hard to fathom how a judge could not investigate each claim of abuse before granting custody. Custody situations are often heated and there are many established cases of parental alienation syndrome.”

A quick Google search would have turned up information from the other side of the custody debate. For instance, in the The Florida Bar Journal J. Michael Bone and Michael R. Walsh write:

Although parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a familiar term, there is still a great deal of confusion and unclarity about its nature, dimensions, and, therefore, its detection.(1) Its presence, however, is unmistakable. In a longitudinal study of 700 “high conflict” divorce cases followed over 12 years, it was concluded that elements of PAS are present in the vast majority of the samples.

Now, why on earth am I writing about parental custody issues? It goes back to employee retaliation and investigation. If Jane comes to Employee Relations and says, “John is sexually harrassing me” we don’t immediately fire John. We investigate. We ask Jane questions. We ask John questions. We ask their co-workers.

Now, if, in the course of my investigation, I discover that John has repeatedly been accused of inappropriate behavior, more weight is given to Jane’s statement. If, on the other hand, I discover that Jane has accused 14 people of the same behavior, John’s statement will be given more weight.

Now, you don’t need to be an expert investigator to realize that if John and Jane have an extensive history of trying to sabotage each other’s careers that additional investigation will be required in order to come to the truth.

Again, from Morgan Lewis (scroll to page 19):

• For each act of alleged harassment/discrimination, determine when it
occurred, what happened, where it occurred and who saw the incident
• Be thorough—every incident should be explored
• For each incident, determine witnesses and relevant documents
• Ask employee to provide a written statement (or sign interview notes)
• Ask about employee’s expectations for investigation
• Explain investigation process
• Follow-up with an outline of each incident and solicit
• Clearly state that the employee will not experience retaliation

Great advice. Perhaps we can get our journalists to someday investigate correctly.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

First Year September 19, 2006 at 3:44 pm

Just wanted to say you inspired me to make my own HR related post. This is my first interviewing and hiring experience on the other side of the table, and lets just say I do not envy you :)


Evil HR Lady September 19, 2006 at 4:48 pm

This is why I don’t do staffing any more. :>)


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