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.
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.
We know that workplace investigations can be disorienting experiences for the employees involved in them. Even a well-planned investigation can leave employees confused, at best, or deeply hurt and resentful toward one another or their employer, at worst.
Recently I was invited to present a paper at the 2013 Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) as part of a panel titled A Model for the Future: Restorative Approach. The question the panel was designed to address was, “Can a restorative approach meet the stated purpose of each human rights jurisdiction in