Independent Workplace and Title IX Investigations

By: Loraine Della Porta

Misconduct and conflict can emerge in any workplace environment.  If an employee alerts their employer to a complaint, it should be investigated immediately and carefully.

Allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination or other unlawful conduct in the work or learning place are serious and increasingly prevalent.  It is important to demonstrate a commitment to providing a safe and healthy environment and managing exposure or potential liability.  Therefore, employers and administrators must be prepared to respond swiftly and competently when receiving such claims.

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Although employers may use an internal person to conduct the investigation, an independent investigator can bring objectivity and experience to the investigation.  TMG can support your workplace to work through internal and external conflicts constructively and respectfully.

TMG’s diverse team of professionals has substantial experience conducting independent workplace and Title IX investigations.  We work closely with human resource professionals, labor unions, management, in-house and outside counsel to conduct investigations are prompt, thorough, impartial and that have integrity.

Exactly what types of claims should be investigated?

  • Sexual and other forms of harassment (including same sex harassment)
  • Claims involving discrimination based on protected categories (race, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, retaliation)
  • Employee/student misconduct (bullying, ethics violations, impropriety)
  • “Whistle-blower” situations

Who should conduct the investigation? There are a number of options organizations have for conducting work/learning place investigations, including utilizing their own Human Resources or Employee Relations departments, in-house counsel, or private, independent investigation firms.  Each has certain benefits.  While internal personnel may understand the unique work/learning environment and have “inside’ knowledge of the people and circumstances involved, utilizing outside, independent investigators has become the preferred method for responding to these types of claims and allegations.

There are several reasons why an organization/institution should consider using an outside, independent investigator:

  • Impartiality & independence – outside investigators have no stake in the outcome of the investigation. They enter with a well-defined role and a clearly articulated investigative plan– to interview complainants, witnesses and gather facts.  Also, with no preconceived impression of the presenting situation and the individuals involved, outside investigators are able to be impartial.  Complainants and witnesses may perceive in-house investigators as biased or placing the interests of the organization ahead of their own.
  • Credibility and integrity – bringing in an outside investigator shows that the organization takes the allegations seriously and is invested in bringing swift and just resolution to the situation and is willing to face the consequences that flow from it.  Often, complainants and witnesses are reluctant to participate in investigations conducted by in-house personnel due to fear of retaliation and/or a desire to avoid conflict or damage to professional relationships. An outside, independent investigator is more likely to be viewed as an objective, neutral fact-finder and employees are more likely to trust that the investigative process is conducted with fairness and integrity.
  • Experience – many in-house counsel and HR staff do not have extensive experience conducting investigations.  Having investigators with special expertise in workplace/learning place investigations ensures a high quality outcome and can be critical to withstanding judicial scrutiny should the matter proceed to litigation.

At TMG, an integral part of our DNA is creating long-lasting partnerships and working with our clients to identify their needs and provide solutions that support their success.