When workplace issues arise, it is essential to have a fair and thorough investigation process in place. However, it can be concerning when Human Resources (HR) decides to conduct an investigation partially or solely over the phone. It is always important to know that HR exists to protect the company. In this blog post, we will explore steps you can take to protect yourself.
Request for a Formal Written Process
Start by expressing your preference for a formal, written investigation process. It is crucial to have a documented record of the investigation proceedings to ensure transparency and fairness. Politely ask HR to provide a written outline of the investigation, including the allegations, interview questions, and key findings. In fact, always be polite and professional. Never raise your voice or speak in an unprofessional / disrespectful tone.
Understand the Limitations
If HR insists on conducting the investigation over the phone, it is important to understand the limitations associated with this approach. Recognize that non-verbal cues and visual observations might be missed during a phone conversation, potentially impacting the accuracy of the investigation. Also, it is very difficult to judge credibility over phone interviews. In cases where it is your word against the perpetrator, HR will usually just conclude that the complaint cannot be substantiated. Poppycock! Insist that HR make a credibility determinations. Voice your concerns to HR about the potential limitations and advocate for in-person interviews or alternative methods if feasible, such as video conferencing.
Before participating in the phone interview, take the time to prepare yourself adequately. Gather all relevant information, including any supporting documents, emails, or witnesses’ contact information. Note down the key points you want to convey during the interview and anticipate the questions that might be asked. Being well-prepared will help you present your side of the story effectively.
Ask for Clarification and Confirmation
During the interview, if anything is unclear, do not hesitate to ask for clarification. Seek specific details about the process, timelines, and the potential consequences of the investigation. Request that HR summarizes the key points discussed at the end of the conversation and send it to you in writing. This ensures that both parties are aligned and helps prevent misunderstandings later on. However, HR will likely not agree to this. Keep reading below to learn what to do.
Maintain Detailed Documentation
Throughout the investigation process, maintain a thorough record of all communication and interactions with HR. Take detailed notes during the phone interviews, documenting the date, time, and the individuals involved. This will serve as crucial evidence in case of any discrepancies or disputes that may arise later.
Seek Legal Advice
If you feel that your rights are being compromised or the investigation process will not be conducted fairly, seek legal advice. An employment attorney can review your situation and provide guidance on the best course of action. They can help protect your rights, ensure due process, and advocate for a fair investigation. They may even be present with you when you are being interviewed.
Follow Up in Writing
After the phone interview, send a follow-up email to HR, summarizing the main points discussed during the conversation. This serves as a written record and helps to ensure that both parties are on the same page. If there are any additional details or evidence that you want to provide, include them in this email and make sure you bcc yourself the email. Here is an example of a format to follow:*
Dear Ms/Mr. Human Resources Person:
Thank you for (your call) or (for interviewing me) on [DATE] in response to the sexual harassment complaint I made against [PERPETRATOR] on [DATE]. Here is a summary of what we talked about:
(In the first paragraphs, summarize what you told the company representatives) [EXAMPLES]
[PERPETRATOR] called me “sexy” and touched my buttocks on [DATE].
[PERPETRATOR] began asking me to go out with him after work, starting around [DATE] and he continues asking me out at least once a week. I refuse each time and I’ve asked him to stop but he just dismisses my request and sometimes even laughs at me.
I told you that there were witnesses to some events. I gave you the names of my co-workers, Emma Snitch, Alvin Tell, and Isaw Everythn. Ms. Egnore wrote down the names and said she would interview them.
Also during our meeting,
(In these paragraphs, summarize what the company representatives told you):
Ms. Liare said that [PERPETRATOR] is” just being nice but we’ll talk to him and ask him to stop.”
Mr. Nope said “We will speak to [PERPETRATOR] and make sure this stops.”
Mr. Lukeaway said he would conduct an investigation and that the company would provide me with its findings within 30 days.
I look forward to resolving this issue as soon as possible.
* Although the example refers to a sexual harassment complaint, this format can apply to any type of complaint.
Remember, HR exists to protect the company. While it is generally preferred to have in-person or formal written investigations, sometimes HR may opt for phone interviews. If faced with this situation, it’s important to be proactive and take certain steps to protect your interests. Request a formal written process, prepare yourself thoroughly, maintain detailed documentation, seek clarification when needed, and seek legal advice if necessary. Remember, maintaining open communication and advocating for fairness is essential throughout the investigation process.
About The Author
Roger Haag is an attorney who specializes in consumer, labor, and employment law, primarily representing employees. Mr. Haag has extensive experience in various legal proceedings, including arbitration hearings, administrative hearings, bench and jury trials, and has even presented arguments before the California Courts of Appeal. Additionally, Mr. Haag served in the United States Navy and also has professional experience with the Department of the Navy’s Civilian Acquisition Workforce and Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel in Washington D.C.
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