I suspect that for many of you, conducting investigations and report writing is a once in a while occurrence rather than a full-time job like it is for us here at Rubin Thomlinson. Many of you are busy human resources professionals and counsel with endless competing day-to-day priorities. Likely, you are pulled in many different directions, putting out small fires and trying to keep up with all of those urgent emails and phone calls. For you, investigations may feel particularly disruptive and the process of producing a good-quality investigation report daunting.
C’est une question que l’on nous pose souvent pendant notre formation sur les techniques de base en matière d’enquêtes au travail. Devons-nous vraiment tout dévoiler avant l’entrevue avec la partie intimée? Certains participants pensent que la partie intimée fournira des informations plus spontanées et candides s’il y a un élément de surprise pendant l’entrevue. Si la partie intimée reçoit une information détaillée, elle aura ainsi plus de temps pour inventer une histoire qui se conforme aux allégations et aux éléments de preuve. Cette tactique, toutefois, se fond sur une supposition que l’intimé cache quelque chose et est donc « coupable » de ce dont il est accusé. Cette approche n’est pas impartiale et peut mener à une conclusion que la partie intimée a été privée de son droit à l’équité procédurale.
I began my legal career as a young litigation associate in private practice and like many lawyers, found the first few years tough. The hours were often long, the timelines tight and the pressure to produce perfect work was constant. At the time, it was difficult to see why I was putting myself through this and eventually, I left private practice to become in-house counsel. I reflected upon those years many times after I left and begrudgingly, came to realize that the training I received had served me well over the course of my career. This was especially true of the writing skills I had developed, mostly by preparing court submissions under the supervision (read: scrutiny) of senior lawyers. These lawyers taught me the importance of putting myself in the shoes of the reader, a lesson that has had the most impact on the way I write investigation reports and review the reports of other investigators.
Employers sometimes ask us for guidance on how to share the results of a workplace investigation with the parties. It’s not difficult to imagine why.
All parties to an investigation—so long as they are employees of the employer—are entitled to learn the results of the investigation, as noted in the Ministry of Labour’s Code of Practice.
Yet letting a Complainant know that his harassment complaint was not substantiated, or telling a Respondent that he engaged in bullying, is difficult information to deliver. Information like this can be physically and emotionally overwhelming for the parties to hear, and both may experience a variety of emotions in response.