Ms. Forootan conducts independent and neutral workplace investigations into claims of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, misconduct, whistleblowing, insubordination, workplace violence, theft, and other personnel and employee relations issues. Ms. Forootan has worked with a variety of industries and understands that each workplace has unique dynamics that could impact a workplace investigation.
Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, an employer has an affirmative obligation to take “all reasonable steps necessary” to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. (Government Code Section 12940(k).) In other words, employers are legally obligated to investigate certain workplace complaints consistent with California law. Such complaints may relate to alleged harassment, discrimination, retaliation, safety, or ethical violations. Conducting effective workplace investigations is essential to minimizing the risk of liability on a “failure to prevent [harassment, discrimination, or retaliation]” claim. Workplace investigations must be conducted by a person who is qualified and neutral, and the investigation must be prompt, thorough, documented, complete, and effective. The sufficiency, thoroughness, and fairness of an employer’s workplace investigation are often challenged in litigation.
In many situations external investigators are more appropriate than internal investigators when, for instance, an internal investigator may appear biased, is in fact biased, when an internal investigator is not well trained, when an investigation is complicated, when an investigation may involve conduct giving rise to litigation, when the investigator is involved in the employee’s termination, or when the investigator is investigating someone who has the power to terminate his or her employment. In all circumstances, employers need to take all employee complaints of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment seriously, including by involving an appropriate workplace investigator.