Understanding Workplace Investigations


Workplace investigations are an important element in effective risk management for companies. They are formal inquiries conducted to determine if any internal policies, laws or regulations are in violation. Third-party investigations assist in responding to reports of wrongdoing, and can provide preventative measures for businesses to mitigate future employee misconduct. Investigators conduct investigations by collecting facts surrounding the allegations. This may include interviewing witnesses and reviewing documentation, followed by a report of the findings to the organization.  


Workplace Investigations Assist in Avoiding Legal Liability

Effective, timely, and impartial investigations:  

  • Allow employers to make employment decisions based on a complete set of facts 
  • Allow employers to assess legal risk and evaluate whether settling a claim is appropriate 
  • Are critical in an employer’s defense to many employment claims 
  • Can avoid costly legal fees for defending a legal or administrative action  

Workplace Investigations Assist in Promoting a Healthy Workplace Culture

Swiftly responding to complaints of misconduct or impropriety with a tailored investigation signals to your workforce that misconduct will not be tolerated and complaints will be taken seriously. Ultimately, enforcing organizational culture that includes:  

  • Fostering a culture of transparency and accountability 
  • Employees feel safe, secure, and respected 
  • Employees observe that the organization follows its own policies and procedures, as well as the law 
  • Reduces loss of reputation to the organization due to misconduct  


While there are certainly times an organization may want to conduct its own investigation, there are a number of critical reasons why an organization should consider an third-party investigator. For instance:  

  • Using an attorney may allow the investigation results to be protected by attorney-client privilege and/or work-product privilege, which could shield disclosure of discussions and findings  
  • A thorough, independent investigation shows the employer took a complaint seriously  
  • Completing investigations involves navigating a complicated web of local, state, and federal laws in which managers and supervisors are often not well versed  
  • Using internal employees can raise the inference that the investigation conclusions are biased  

Our Labor & Employment team conducts independent workplace investigations for public and private organizations throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.