I am the Harassment and Discrimination Officer for my community sport club. Unlike my club peers who volunteered for the board of directors or fundraising committee and who are busy organizing weekly bake sales, seeking sponsors and promoting online fundraising campaigns, my volunteer role has required little of my time. But that is likely changing and for a good reason. Amateur sport in Canada is undergoing a cultural transformation, specifically around safety in sport and the creation of a safe environment for all participants, particularly children.
9.9 times out of 10, I am the only workplace investigator at a social gathering. At a recent dinner, I explained what I do for a living. I received the usual raised eye-brows and comments that the other guests would start to watch what they were saying, but no investigator jokes.
(After being a lawyer for 23 years, I believe I have heard the gamut of lawyer quotes and cracks, but I have yet to hear a good workplace investigator joke or jab.)
After the initial reaction, I was also asked, “Why, with all the media attention through #MeToo and policies and laws in place, are we still talking about people not knowing how to behave at work?”
A complainant files a harassment or discrimination complaint and then quits. A respondent says the allegations are ridiculous and refuses to participate.
What do you do when the individuals who have the most important information refuse to participate in a workplace investigation?
While the promise of anonymity is often what gets complainants to come forward, once employers have that information, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible figuring out how to handle the complaint in a way that continues to protect anonymity. If the incidents described are specific enough and/or follow-up interviews identify the parties involved, the complainant is unlikely to remain anonymous for very long.