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Serious insight for serious situations.

Serious insight for serious situations.

Four tips for conducting workplace investigations amidst the COVID-19 crisis

It goes without saying that the entire world is currently treading in unchartered waters. The COVID-19 crisis is something that this world has not seen or experienced in many generations, if ever! All industries, businesses and sectors are assessing how to carry on with “business as usual” when the circumstances are anything but “business as usual.” In the wold of workplace investigations, the same questions are being asked.

Ordinarily, a solid workplace investigation rests on four pillars; namely – fairness, thoroughness, timeliness and confidentiality¹. If not handled appropriately, the COVID – 19 crisis has the potential to rock that foundation in two ways – it may impact the fairness and timeliness of an investigation.

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Workplace whistleblowing 101

This is the first in a series of blogs that I will be writing on workplace whistleblowing. There is not a lot of practical information available on the topic and I want to help shed some light on how employers can be better prepared to deal with employees who blow the whistle.

I am somewhat of an anomaly in that I have a lot of hands-on experience with this subject matter. I have managed whistleblowing programs, conducted intake interviews with whistleblowers and investigated alleged wrongdoing disclosed by whistleblowers.

For this blog, I thought that a good place to start would be to provide general information about workplace whistleblowing given that it is a topic that is foreign to many.

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A crash course on course of conduct: When it comes to workplace harassment, a single incident may not be just a single incident

In Ontario, harassment is defined in both the Human Rights Code and the Occupational Health and Safety Act as a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome. The term “course of conduct” gives the impression that harassment needs to be made up of multiple incidents. In fact, in some circumstances one serious incident can constitute harassment in the workplace.

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Is disparity dishonesty? On the Dolly Parton challenge and credibility

Did you see the Dolly Parton Challenge meme that went viral in January 2020?
Initiated by American singer Dolly Parton, participants in the Challenge composite four photographs of themselves labelled, “LinkedIn”, “Facebook”, “Instagram”, and “Tinder”. The idea is that each photograph presents a version of the user that corresponds to a different professional, social, or romantic context. The humour in the meme lies in confessional self-awareness – a person can appear and act in one context in a way that might seem awkward or inappropriate in another.

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Neutrality in workplace investigations

When conducting interviews as a workplace investigator, I begin each interview by explaining my role in the investigation process to the interviewee. As an external investigator, I ensure that interviewees are aware that my role is to be neutral. In the past, I have been asked whether I could be truly neutral. I have had interviewees express to me their reservations about how I would be assessing the information they provide, for if a client retains our firm to investigate a complaint, would I not then just be serving the client’s interest? In this blog post, I answer these and other questions I have been asked in relation to an investigator’s neutrality.

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“We just don’t believe her”: Confronting “organizational bias” in workplace investigations

Bias – whether conscious or unconscious – is a problem that workplace investigators grapple with in many forms. Perhaps bias is exactly what we’ve been asked to investigate: was the complainant treated differently at work on the basis of her gender, race or religion? Or, maybe we’re concerned that our own biases are affecting our investigation: do I believe the respondent’s evidence just because he looks and talks like me?

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Keep calm and carry on: When interviewees become aggressive

It’s no secret that workplace investigations can be an emotionally charged process. To that end, it is not uncommon for individuals who are interviewed during an investigation to become visibly upset or frustrated. However, it is an altogether different situation where an interviewee becomes downright aggressive, hostile or disrespectful towards the investigator.

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