Misconduct – getting the whole story part 1

This is an interesting article (linked) from an English news outlet relating to the Chelsea football club where the alleged victim of sexual harassment severely criticised the Football Association for failing to interview her in the course of its investigation – http://www.dailymercury.com.au/news/fa-feeling-heat-over-sex-abuse-inquiry/2795505/

It is not unheard of in workplaces that alleged victims of sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination or other forms of misconduct are not interviewed as part of the investigation process especially when the complaint is made by someone other than the victim.

In other cases where the victim makes a written, (these days mostly email) complaint it is also not uncommon for HR departments to conduct an enquiry/investigation based only on the written complaint without further interviewing of the victim/complainant.

In both cases this is a really bad idea – why?

As a manager or HR manager you have a duty of care. That duty of care in my opinion extends to ensuring complaints are fully and professionally investigated when there are allegations of behaviours that have the potential to cause the victim to suffer an illness or injury. In the case of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment the common illness or injuries are related to anxiety and depression.

Failure to conduct a thorough investigation can result further in complaints, litigation and falling foul of sections 31 – 33 of the Work Health and safety Act 2011, (worth a read if you are not familiar). http://www3.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/whasa2011218/

In the first case, second hand reports may contain only part of the information, only part of the complaint and only part of what has been going on. You cannot reasonably make a decision with only part of the evidence. Speaking to the complainant is the first part of getting the whole story.

In the second case, the written complaint is often filled with emotion and generalisations. The job of an experienced investigator and interviewer is to get to the heart of the issues, to find out what has been going on and find out exactly what the complaint is about – you know the old: Who What Where When and Why

Sounds easy? – it’s not.

Part 2 of this post will examine what you should do if the complaint is made by a person other than the victim.

This is general information only; it does not replace advice from a qualified workplace investigator in your state or territory.  It is recommended that should you encounter complaints in the workplace you should seek advice from suitability qualified and experienced qualified workplace investigator.

AWPTI – workplace investigations Sydney and through-out NSW, QLD and Victoria. Workplace training national wide
Workplace investigations misconduct, bullying, harassment & sexual harassment investigations


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