CASE STUDY: Workplace Investigation

THE CHALLENGE

A company (in the private sector) received an anonymous complaint through their whistleblowing mechanisms accusing three, very senior members of staff, of bullying, sexual harassment and sexist behaviour.

Given the seriousness of the complaint, the seniority level of the staff involved and the potential risk of reputational damage, they decided to commission an independent company to carry out an investigation.

Their lawyer recommended Dorothy McKinney Ltd – we submitted an investigation proposal to the company, which they accepted.

THE BACKGROUND

Before working with Dorothy McKinney Ltd, the company had been trying to deal with issues relating to ‘acceptable’ behaviour for quite some time. Therefore, given the nature of the anonymous complaint, they were concerned that their attempts to deal with these issues had been in vain.

The company had no prior experience of conducting an extensive investigation so, in addition to commissioning an independent company to carry out an investigation for them; they also needed guidance on investigation best practice.

“Dorothy and the team undertook a complex investigation for us where we just couldn’t see a way forward, no matter what the outcome. However, they identified the key issues, analysed these in relation to allegations, individuals, policies and ways of working and prepared a report that allowed us to see a way forward whilst addressing the issues in a fair and robust manner. It’s unusual to have workplace investigators who have the skills to identify and analyse evidence and produce a thorough report while also building a high level of rapport and trust with staff. They brought great value to a very difficult situation and contributed a lot more than we expected.” HR Director

THE ACTIONS

THE RESULTS

We concluded that two allegations were corroborated and that these be addressed through a disciplinary process. We also identified:

  • There was a significant issue relating to what staff did and didn’t regard as appropriate behaviour. We identified that this left the client at significant risk of further allegations and was something they needed to address very quickly.
  • The client’s Dignity at Work policy required revision to define acceptable and unacceptable behaviours in the context of the working environment.
  • The client required clarity on their position on ‘relationships at work’ and the impact these relationships have on the workplace.
  • HR had undertaken culture change events to address the issue of inappropriate behaviour but senior staff had not engaged with these events. The report recommended that HR plan more culture change work with the support of the CEO.

The client undertook a disciplinary process relating to the corroborating evidence and issued a formal warning to the manager. There was no appeal and the manager settled back into his role.

The chair of the disciplinary panel told us the report gave him the information he needed to ensure the outcome was fair and robust.

As the company had not dealt with such an extensive investigation previously, the input from us in relation to best practice when undertaking an investigation was something they valued very highly. So much so that they asked us to provide mentoring support to their HR Adviser to allow him to develop skills for their next investigation.

Would you like our help and support with your workplace investigation?

Contact us for details about our conflict resolution services.