As workplace investigators, throughout the investigation process we often field requests from respondents (or their representatives) for additional information or materials. They may request further particulars of the complainant’s allegations, witness names, documents, notes or recordings.
Several of my investigations have led me to reflect on the phenomenon of “groupthink,” and how it impacts the workplace and intrudes upon workplace investigations. Groupthink is a term that was first coined by social psychologist Irving Janis, and refers to a group that, when working together, strives for harmony and consensus above all else.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, harassment and discrimination investigations have become quite prevalent in the workplace in recent years. Notwithstanding the legislative mandate, it is a positive indication when organizations are responding to complaints of harassment and discrimination within their workplace. However, in my experience as a workplace investigator, I often see quite clearly that, before an organization decides to pursue an investigation, there are multiple opportunities to address some of the issues by using less adversarial means.
It has become somewhat of a Rubin Thomlinson tradition to host a webinar at the beginning of each year outlining our top 10 workplace investigation cases from the previous year. On January 14, 2021, we hosted our most well-attended webinar yet: The top 10 cases of 2020. Here are the discussed themes and a very brief summary of the presentation.
Depuis la mi-mars 2020, la majorité de nos enquêtes en milieu de travail et au sein des institutions postsecondaires se font de façon virtuelle. Donnant suite aux consignes de la santé publique concernant la distanciation sociale, nous rencontrons rarement les parties et témoins d’une enquête en personne, plutôt nous les rencontrons par vidéoconférence. Cette méthode de communication a certaines retombées du point de vue de la langue. Notamment, toute difficulté de compréhension est accrue par voie virtuelle. Il y a toutefois moyen d’atténuer ces difficultés. De plus, les contraintes géographiques disparaissent avec les enquêtes virtuelles.
In our workplace investigation training sessions, we often talk about the four pillars of the investigation process: fairness, thoroughness, timeliness, and confidentiality. The recent decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the “Tribunal”), Young v. O-I Canada Corp., is an example of an investigation under scrutiny due to its lack of thoroughness.
In my role as review counsel, I train others on how to write effective workplace investigation reports. When I review reports, much of what I focus on is readability: how is the report going to sound to the reader? Is it easy to read? Is the reader going to get confused by the report’s organization? I think about this mythical reader a lot; probably too much in fact, and I bet my colleagues are tired of hearing me go on about it.
In a recent decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario [AB v. 2096115 Ontario Inc. c.o.b. as Cooksville Hyundai, 2020 HRTO 499 (CanLII)], the Tribunal highlighted how an inadequate and unreasonable internal workplace investigation by an employer could result in a breach of the Human Rights Code R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19 (Code).