Workplace Investigations in California
At some point most employers will need to conduct a workplace investigation regarding one or more employees. Workplace investigations can help uncover issues before they turn into major concerns for the employer. Typical workplace investigations may include discrimination or harassment complaints.
Federal and State Laws Governing Workplace InvestigationsDepending on the issue, an employer may be legally required to begin an investigation. Listed below are some of the laws governing workplace investigations. 1. Job Discrimination Laws: If an employee complains about discrimination, he or she is protected under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act. 2. Health and Safety Laws: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) require California employers to provide a safe workplace for employees. 3. Drug-free Workplace Laws: To ensure that your employees are not under the influence of illegal drugs, an employer must comply with the rules and regulations of the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988, Department of Transportation and the State Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1990. 4. Background and Credit Checks: With the exception of certain financial institutions, state law prohibits employers from obtaining employee credit reports.
Who Can Legally Conduct Fact-Finding Investigations in California?An employer can investigate workplace issues in one of three ways: 1. Conduct an internal investigation 2. Use human resource consultants, or 3. Hire private investigators and attorneys.
What Are the Requirements for Investigators in California for Conducting Workplace Misconduct Investigations?Although in-house staff may conduct investigations in California, different rules apply when a California employer hires an external investigator to investigate workplace misconduct. Under the California Business and Professional Code Section 7520-7539, an external consultant hired to conduct a workplace investigation must be a state-licensed private investigator or state-licensed attorney. Human resource consultants who are not licensed attorneys or private investigators cannot legally conduct such investigations.
Tips for Conducting Workplace Investigations in CaliforniaInvestigate as soon as the alleged wrongdoing is made known. A prompt investigation will lead to a quick resolution of the issue. 1. Choose the right investigator. An investigator needs to be objective and neutral. 2. Keep the parties involved separated during the investigation to ensure no additional conflict occurs. 3. Conduct a thorough investigation. This requires documenting everything that is said and done during the investigation. 4. Assess the credibility of the parties involved. After interviewing all parties, determine the validity of each of the claims. 5. Keep the entire process confidential. 6. After concluding the investigation, present factual findings. 7. Based on the findings, take the proper remedial action to correct the situation. 8. Protect against any retaliation by employees by strictly following company policy and procedures, and by balancing the investigation with the privacy rights of the parties involved.