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Hostile Work Environment Investigation document sample
Hostile Work Environment Investigation document sample
WSI Investigation Procedure Policy Statement It is the policy of WSI to create and maintain a work environment in which people are treated with dignity, decency and respect. Employees should be able to work in a safe, yet stimulating atmosphere. Federal and State laws require state agencies to take affirmative steps to establish a safe workplace. Properly and promptly responding to allegations of harassment, violence, and discrimination may provide an affirmative defense to an allegation of negligence. For that reason, WSI will not tolerate unlawful discrimination or harassment of any kind. Response to Complaints of Harassment, Violence and Discrimination To limit potential liability, WSI will promptly respond to complaints of inappropriate workplace behavior, including but not limited to, harassment, violence or threats of violence, and discrimination. Further, such complaints will be handled through a formalized process. Supervisors are not to attempt to resolve such issues alone but rather notify Human Resources to address the situation. The Complaint Once a complaint is made, the first step is to ascertain as much information about the allegations as possible. The person receiving or handling the complaint should ask the employee making the complaint: What happened? When did it happen? Has it ever happened before? Has it happened to anyone else? Who was present when it happened (witnesses)? Have you talked with anyone about the incident(s)? To what extent was the behavior welcome or unwelcome? Was it conveyed to the alleged harasser that the behavior was unwelcome? Is there any other information you may have that would substantiate the allegation(s)? Link: Complainant Intake Form Additionally, have the complaining employee detail the allegations in writing. However, WSI will not ignore its responsibility to investigate a complaint simply because an employee refuses to put anything in writing or anonymous complaints. The general tone of the initial contact with the complainant should reassure the employee that the agency will take the complaint seriously and that the employee is to be commended for coming forward. In the initial meeting with the complaining employee the following should be discussed: WSI’s policy prohibiting retaliation and how to report it if they feel they have been retaliated against. The employee should also be instructed not to discuss the investigation with other employees until the investigation is complete. Assure the employee that WSI will try to proceed in as confidential a manner a possible, but cannot promise or guarantee confidentiality. Ask the complaining employee for input as to what should be done to remedy the problem. The employee should be told that, although his or her suggestions will be considered, WSI has an obligation to decide independently what corrective action should be taken. Evaluating the Complaint After obtaining an allegation, WSI will evaluate the information it has received to determine whether to proceed with a formal workplace investigation. If the identified problems can be quickly remedied without the need for a formal investigation, the inquiry will be sufficient. Where the allegations are serious in nature, identify a complex problem, involve a number of employees, or where the relevant facts are likely to be in dispute, WSI will proceed with a formal investigation. In cases where the problem is quickly and informally resolved, the matter should be documented with the complaining employee acknowledging that the problem has been remedied. Additionally, WSI will evaluate a complaint to determine whether any interim action is necessary. Interim action can include temporary job reassignment, allowing a complaining employee time off, or suspending an accused offender pending completion of an investigation. Interim measures, however, will be reviewed to make sure that the complaining employee is not negatively impacted. For example, reassigning a complainant to a less desirable position may be considered a form of retaliation. Finally, the Investigator(s) will meet with WSI’s General Counsel to determine if the situation that is being investigated is reportable to Risk Management. The determination will be documented as to why or why not a Risk Management Incident Report was or was not filed. In the event that the offending party is a vendor or contract employee; Risk Management should be notified promptly. Planning the Investigation Once the decision to conduct a formal workplace investigation has been made, a plan will be formulated concerning how to proceed with the investigation. The plan will identify: Who will be conducting the investigation What documents (e.g. personnel files) will be looked at Who will be interviewed The order in which people will be interviewed Standard information that each person will be told as part of the interview process The Human Resource Manager or designee will conduct most WSI investigations. To ensure that the Investigator(s) is neutral, objective and free from any perceived bias; each investigation will be evaluated on a case by case basis to identify the Investigator(s). In the event that the alleged offender is the CEO, investigations will be handled through WSI’s Internal Audit Department. The Internal Audit Manager will ensure the results of the investigation will be provided to the Board of Directors Audit Committee. WSI may choose an individual from outside the organization to conduct an investigation at any time to avoid the perception of the Investigator(s) being biased or constrained in their investigation. The Investigation Prior to conducting interviews a list of standardized questions will be prepared, to include a standard opening and closing statement to be given at each interview. Use the following link to access the Witness Interviewee Intro and Questions Form: Link: Witness Interviewee Intro and Questions Form Every person identified as potentially having information (lead) should be interviewed. At the outset of each initial interview, the Investigator(s) should explain the purpose of the investigation and what is expected of the employee. Each person interviewed should be told that although WSI takes the allegations seriously, no conclusions have been made. Each employee should be instructed not to discuss the investigation with other employees. Lastly, WSI’s policy prohibiting retaliation and the consequences for employees that engage in retaliatory conduct should be explained. During the interviews, the Investigator(s) should start with broad standard questions, followed up with more specific questions depending on the interviewee's response. Each person interviewed should be asked to put things in chronological order or otherwise identify relevant time periods. Each person giving pertinent information should be asked whether anyone else was present or can otherwise substantiate the information. At the conclusion of each interview, employees should be asked whether they have any additional information regarding inappropriate workplace behavior. Each person interviewed should be told that if they remember any other pertinent information they should contact the investigator(s). Each person interviewed will be asked to summarize their knowledge of the events that lead up to the investigation, sign the summary and submit it to the Investigator(s). Additionally, the Investigator(s) will summarize each employee’s interview and the employee's responses. Once the interview is summarized each employee interviewed will be required to sign the Interview Statement Form. Link: Interview Statement Form Throughout the investigation process, WSI will strive to balance the needs of ending offending behavior with protecting the rights and reputation of both the complainant and the accused. Excessive publication of the charges and information received during the investigation should be avoided. Investigator(s) and other employees should refrain from discussing the charges and related information outside of the context of the investigation. The allegations and information obtained during the investigation should be maintained as confidential as possible within the limitations of state and federal law (e.g. open records law). Evaluating the Information The Investigator(s) will evaluate the information to determine what facts are supported by the investigation. The Investigator(s) will base their findings on competent information coming from individuals' personal knowledge, not findings based on hearsay, innuendo and/or rumor. Additionally, the Investigator(s) may need to make some credibility assessments to make factual findings. Things to consider when assessing credibility: interviewee's demeanor was the interviewee's statements consistent was the interviewee's description of events consistent with the statements of others was the interviewee's description plausible or farfetched was the interviewee fully cooperative with the investigation process The Investigator(s) will detail their findings and recommendations using the Investigation Report. This report, once finalized, will be forwarded to upper management to make the final determination on what corrective action to take. Link: Investigation Report The Investigation Report The investigation report outlines the findings and recommendations of the Investigator(s). The report should be written in a manner which clearly and persuasively supports the ultimate findings that were made. Additionally, the findings should not be written in legally conclusory terms (e.g. "hostile work environment," "discriminatory," "sexual harassment"). Rather the findings should be couched in terms of the specific unacceptable conduct at issue. A draft version of the Investigation Report should be reviewed by WSI’s General Counsel before the report is finalized. The General Counsel can help identify legal issues as well as help determine whether certain facts meet certain legal standards. The General Counsel can also help identify what forms of corrective action may be legally appropriate. Taking Corrective Action The final version of the Investigation Report is forwarded on to upper management. At that time, upper management will determine what corrective action, if any, will be taken. Corrective action can take the form of a simple memo to all employees reminding them that certain conduct and discussions are inappropriate and will not be tolerated in the workplace or it can go all the way to terminating one or more employees. What level of response is appropriate necessarily depends on what conduct is involved, who is involved, and whether similar conduct has occurred in the past. The Investigator(s) will document the determination of upper management; specifically, corrective action taken or no corrective action was necessary. Questions to consider in determining what corrective action to take if inappropriate workplace behavior is substantiated are: Was the incident an isolated incident or does it reflect a pattern of inappropriate behavior? Was the incident severe enough to objectively create a hostile work environment? Is the person that engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior a supervisory employee? Has any supervisory employee failed to report known or suspected harassment? What were the prior relationships between the employees involved? Did the incident involve inappropriate physical touching? Verbal abuse or merely inappropriate discussions? Did the complaining employee in any way indicate that the behavior was welcomed? Were verbal comments made in a derogatory or hostile fashion or merely unintended offensive comment? Is there anything which would indicate that one or more members of a protected class were singled out for differential treatment? Monitoring Corrective Action The Human Resources department is responsible for monitoring the corrective action process. A memo placed in the final investigation file will serve as documentation that the corrective action has been completed. The Final Investigation File The final investigation report, all supporting notes and memorandum generated during the investigation, and documents relevant to any corrective action taken, should be maintained in a final workplace investigation file. This file is maintained separately from employee's personnel file in the Human Resource Manager’s office.
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