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.
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.
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.
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.