Workplace investigations may occur when there are reports about some sort legal violation or crime being committed in the workplace, such as sexual harassment or embezzlement. Investigations can happen for a number of reasons and can be performed by various persons or entities. In most cases, the aim of an investigation is to determine whether a claim about a legal violation is true or not. Workplace investigations also exist in order to discover evidence that might be used during trial or other legal processes.
Workplace investigations may be performed by:
- HR departments for smaller, internal investigations and issues
- Various government agencies such as the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Wage and Hour Division (WHA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Each agency is responsible for investigating specific areas of law
- Police, FBI, Immigration authorities, and other law enforcement agencies; these are usually reserved for criminal matters
The entity or persons conducting the investigation will all depend on the exact nature and aim of the legal issues involved. Some investigations may ultimately lead to class action lawsuits if the issue is widespread.
When Do Workplace Investigations Occur?
Workplace investigations can occur for various reasons, including:
- Workplace disputes between employees
- Criminal matters such as accounting fraud and other white collar crimes
- Various civil disputes such as discrimination, harassment, wage/hour complaints, worker’s comp issues, and other disputes
What Are the Consequences of Workplace Investigations?
Workplace investigations sometimes don’t immediately lead to legal consequences. For instance, investigations by government agencies such as the EEOC may lead to requests that the employer change their hiring practices so they are non-discriminatory. Or, a wage/hour investigation might lead to changes in employment wage policies.
However, other investigations can lead to legal remedies such as damages for lost wages, reinstatement to a previous job after a termination, and other remedies. The results of some investigations may also be used in private lawsuits for additional damages and remedies. Finally, some criminal investigations may lead to criminal penalties such as fines and incarceration for the guilty parties.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Workplace Investigation Issue?
Workplace investigations can often involve some complex legal analysis and theory. However, they are often very necessary for resolving a legal issue or dispute. You may need to hire an employment law attorney in your area if you need help initiating or dealing with a workplace investigation. Your lawyer can inform you of your rights and options when it comes to an investigation. In the event that you need to attend a court hearing, your lawyer can represent you during trial as well.