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Serious insight for serious situations.

Serious insight for serious situations.

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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Somewhere over the rainbow: Dealing with evidence stored on a cloud

In our digital era, investigators must be increasingly technologically savvy. Evidence can take on many forms, including texts, emails and social media accounts. Many employers provide company-issued phones, which, more often than not, happen to be iPhones that are controlled by Apple IDs and rely on virtual storage. As the workplace is further digitized, and as more offices become mobile or virtual, investigations will naturally be dealing with evidence that is stored virtually on a cloud. As the decision District of Houston v. Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 2086 (“District of Houston”) illustrates, sometimes when evidence is stored virtually, it is not so easy to access.

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“I don’t recall”: Addressing the “code of silence” in law enforcement investigations

Law enforcement agencies, such as police services, correctional institutions and the RCMP, are distinguishable workplaces with a paramilitary culture and an emphasis on solidarity with one another. These attributes can be important in the execution of duties, given the inherent dangers involved in working at such organizations.

However, problems manifest when the notion of solidarity evolves into an unwillingness to report the misconduct of one’s colleagues. This unwillingness, often referred to as the “code of silence”, the “blue wall” or the “thin blue line”, is often rooted in a fear of backlash in the workplace.

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Where to meet? Tips on choosing interview spaces

I recently did several investigations which involved a bit of creativity when choosing the interview location.  The situations made me think of how an interview space can affect a participant’s experience and perhaps the quality of evidence that is elicited during that meeting.  Below, I offer some thoughts to consider when choosing an interview space.

The interview is an opportunity for the investigator to neutrally gather evidence.  It is also an opportunity for the interviewee to talk about their understanding and observations of the situation at hand.  The interview is often one of the key, if not the main, sources of information that an investigator will have.

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Sharing the investigation results or: How to stop worrying and have the conversation

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.

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8 Tips on keeping an investigation confidential

Recently, I was on an airplane returning to Toronto from Sudbury. Apart from what I’m about to tell you, the flight was unremarkable. Friendly flight attendants served a selection of drinks and snacks. The flight jostled us across the sky with its typical turbulence. I sipped some wine, lamented how few pretzels there are in one bag, and caught up on the news at the end of a long day.

My tired eyes rested on the screen of an open laptop just ahead of me. What I saw was the title page of a workplace investigation report, which listed the names of the parties and the employer.

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Snooping around: Trouble for employees and obligations for employers

There has been much in the media in recent years about employees of various institutions using their positions as employees to gain access to information about people who use those institutions. The cases we have seen in great detail generally involved health care professionals accessing the records of famous or infamous patients, or for personal

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Supreme Court of Canada strikes down Alberta privacy legislation: Province has 12 months to revise

In a decision released Friday November 15, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) is unenforceable, on account of the statute’s failure to protect the freedom of expression guaranteed by section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court has given the Alberta legislature twelve

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