Misconduct – getting the whole story part 3

Misconduct – getting the whole story part 3. Following on from part 1 and part 2, in this case you have received a complaint of sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination or other misconduct from a victim in writing or via email – what should you do?

Written complaints are 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.

It is not uncommon for written complaints to have been written over a period of time and to be lengthy.

It is important during the interview to find out what the victim meant when they used words like bullying, intimidated, humiliated, harassment, threatened etc. I have read complaints that used words like blackmailed and extorted. When I interview the complainant the behaviour alleged was not actually consistent with those words. I have also reviewed complaints from respondents who identified that the words used in an allegation framed only using the written complaint did not match the behaviour actually alleged. This trap should be avoided as it has the potential to derail the investigation.

It is very important that any allegation put to a respondent matches the behaviour alleged in a complaint. For example if a victim said that the perpetrator yelled and threatened them in front of other employees when they said “I am sick of having to tell you over and over how to do this, you’re useless, just get it right will you.”

This may be classed as humiliating or belittling, however it is not threatening even if the victim claimed that is was threatened. The job of the investigator/interviewer is to get full details and to be able to determine the nature of the complaint.

The conversation could go like this

Interviewer – “You said in your email that he threatened you, can you tell me about that?”

Victim- “ Yes he said, I am sick of having to tell you over and over how to do this, you’re useless, just get it right will you.”

Interviewer – “Did he say anything else?”

Victim – “No that’s all.”

This may be  a case of humiliating or belittling behaviour, however it is not threatening. If the complainant was not interviewed you may be proceeding to make allegations against the respondent based on the complainant’s understanding of what certain terms such as bullying actually mean.

When interviewing the complainant:

Obtain details and record;

  • What happened – in as much detail as possible (events?)
  • Who was the perpetrator – name, role/position?
  • What were said – exact words if possible?
  • When it happened – in as much detail as possible, time, date, day etc
  • How the perpetrator behaved
  • What they meant by word like bullying, intimidated, humiliated etc
  • How the victim responded
  • Was anyone else there – additional witnesses, who?
  • What they did – did they have any conversation with the perpetrator or witnesses?
  • Explain the need for confidentiality

Review the information from person/s reporting to see what other information you need to fill in the gaps and who else other than the alleged victim you made need to interview.

Interview witnesses – be careful not to give the witnesses too much information or lead evidence form them but you need to clearly establish;

  • Who was the victim?
  • Who was the perpetrator – name, role/position?
  • What they saw
  • What they heard – exact words if possible
  • When it happened – in as much detail as possible, time, date, day etc
  • Was anyone else there – additional witnesses, who?
  • What they did – did they have any conversation with the victim, perpetrator or witnesses
  • Explain the need for confidentiality

By now you should be in full possession of the facts from the position of the victim and witnesses.

As I previously mentioned this is a time consuming and often difficult process. It is wise that prior to starting you decide, do we have the time, do we have the expertise and experience or would be it be better from a time and cost saving perspective to have a professional come in and take the stress away?

Part 4 of this post will examine the next steps and what you should do before interviewing the respondent to ensure procedural fairness.

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 that 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

www.awpti.com.au
http://awpti.com.au/investigations/

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *