Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Why You Need to Take More Care With Workplace Investigations

Investigating alleged workplace misconduct has always been an area that requires great care. Today, there are more legal risks related to investigation, so speed and thoroughness are even more important. How those investigations must be conducted - and the planning that needs to go into them - has also changed. "Not so long ago, a business could undertake a [misconduct] investigation with relatively few restrictions," according to an attorney specializing in internal investigations. "Those days are gone."

Risks have grown for companies that fail to conduct investigations and fail to plan in advance how they go about them, said attorneys Steven Solow and Meghan O'Donnell of Hunton & Williams LLP. The attorneys are the authors of Internal Investigations: Privacy Issues: Workplace Searches, Surveillance. and Monitoring.

Some risk from employee misconduct is unchanged. Employees who steal goods, money, or proprietary information create losses and can harm the business. Other misconduct can leave employers vulnerable to laws designed to protect other employees from harassment, discrimination, or unsafe conditions.

The attorneys also noted the "growing thicket of federal laws related to corporate governance and financial disclosure," such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), new accounting rules, and new state laws related to information security breaches. They make instances of employee misconduct a greater liability for employers than they were just a few years ago.
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