As an owner or manager of your company, complaints, allegations of harassment, or other types of grievances will inevitably come to your attention from time to time, meriting an investigation
In the past, you may have been involved with investigations where an employee was required to maintain confidentiality except with the person doing the investigation. Confidentiality is beneficial in an investigation if you are attempting to learn each person’s individual take on a situation and not have employees collaborating and tainting what is shared by their conversations.
But recent guidance from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) states that employees are allowed to discuss investigative situations as they are allowed to discuss job-related factors such as wages, job conditions and work assignments. The NLRB considers this a legally protected right of employees. There have been judgments against companies who have required employees to sign confidentiality statements when participating in investigations, especially when a company terminates an employee in the process of enforcing those statements.
Workplace investigations are best handled by BCN Services, which has professional staff to assist you and can provide an impartial, professional investigation of the situation. BCN will work with your management team as appropriate, and make recommendations designed to help defuse situations and protect the company from legal issues down the line.
Your management team will likely be involved in these discussions, too. It’s important that the BCN HR staff and your mangers be on the same page in approaching the investigation and what’s required or asked of employees.
The bottom line for employers: It’s acceptable to request confidentiality and explain how it will help the integrity of the investigation process, but use caution when prohibiting the discussion of sensitive information. Any disciplinary action plans related to the sharing of information should be carefully reviewed with the experts at BCN prior to taking action.
Trisha Crigger, Human Resources Generalist