Tough Issues

April 26, 2008

With a book coming out and increased numbers of investigations taking my time, I’ve realized the importance of reflection. The issues I face around workplace investigations become more sophisticated, complex and at times, disconcerting. A few particular issues/ethics questions have repeatedly popped up, so I’ll share my thoughts with readers:

1) The race of the investigator as a legitimate issue in retention: I have been told in two cases that although I was deemed to be the best qualified investigator under consideration, that hiring an investigator who was a racial minority was viewed as more important than mere qualifications. While part of me wants to rise in protest at what, on its face, is an improper determination, I have to acknowledge that my firm’s own research shows that in race discrimination claims that the race of the investigator IS a factor in the degree to which complainants later state that the investigation was fair, and that investigators that match the race of the complainant are a factor in complainant’s willingness to cooperate in the investigation. As such, I am hard pressed to argue with those who factor the race of the investigator into a criterion for selection. It raises for me a question of whether an investigator is ethically obligated to inform a client of this fact when he or she is being retained to investigate a race case. It also raises for me a question of whether the complainant’s ultimate satisfaction is a legitimate measure of what a successful investigation looks like.

2) The value and propriety of feedback to parties in investigations What information parties should be/are given following an investigation is probably the most divergent area I see when dealing with a variety of organizations. While some organizations provide a copy of an unredacted report to all parties, other organizations limit their feedback to “action was taken,” or “the investigation was concluded.” Read the rest of this entry »

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