On the evening of Sunday, March 7, I, along with 17 million other people, tuned in to watch Oprah’s interview of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I am the first to admit that I wanted to hear all the details about their decision to step back as “senior” members of the Royal Family, but as an investigator, I also was also interested in how Oprah approached the interview – how she asked her questions, what she asked, and how Harry and Meghan would respond.
Most workplace investigations are not subject to independent review; though they may be considered by a court or tribunal, this would usually be in the context of a separate legal proceeding, e.g., a wrongful dismissal action or a human rights case. Certain investigations, however, may include the exercise of a statutory power of decision, which may give a party a right to pursue a judicial review to challenge the conclusions reached. In such a case, the court may directly address issues such as fairness and the reasonableness of the decision reached in the course of an investigation.
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.
In our workplace investigation training sessions, we often talk about “the four pillars” of the investigation process — fairness, thoroughness, timeliness, and confidentiality — as the foundation of a solid investigation. Here, I briefly explain how “cancel culture” can impact fairness, thoroughness, and confidentiality.
As workplace investigators, it is important to be mindful of how you frame your questions when interviewing parties to an investigation. Framing is even more important when engaged in discussions about an individual’s identity (e.g., sexual orientation, race, nationality, religion, etc.).
My first experience with a workplace investigation was vicariously first-hand, when a close friend of mine was named as a respondent and I became their de facto support person. The investigation was ongoing for three months. During that time, my friend ate, slept, and breathed that investigation.
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.
It seems like every time I see the news or read the paper, there are stories of trauma everywhere. This is partially because, sometimes, these are the stories the media features for “clicks.” But I think, more importantly, this is because trauma is just incredibly prevalent in the human experience.