When discussing the issue of workplace misconduct, we hear sentiments like these all the time:

  • “We already have an HR and legal team to handle employee issues.”
  • “We prefer to handle any misconduct allegations internally.”
  • “These are our employees. Our managers should be able to direct them and correct their behavior.”

We understand why corporate and organizational leaders might balk at the idea of bringing in an outside resource for something that sounds like part of the job of being a manager or HR professional. After all, managers and HR are trained to encourage good performance, build a functional team, and optimize a team to get the best results. However, code of conduct violations like sexual misconduct and discrimination are not a matter of performance management. These actions carry outsized risk to the victim, the workplace, and the organization that merit a new and more robust approach.

A 2016 task force commissioned by the U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission found that workplace harassment “first and foremost comes at a steep cost to those who suffer it, as they experience mental, physical, and economic harm.”¹ They also found that “its true cost includes decreased productivity, increased turnover, and reputational harm. All of this is a drag on performance – and the bottom-line.” In fact, the legal and public relations dangers of mishandled or ignored misconduct complaints can exact a bigger price than a settlement or court-enforced financial judgment, wrecking the goodwill of the company’s brand.

Despite the sensitive nature of these investigations and the extremely high risks they pose, many companies and organizations make the mistake of delegating the investigative tasks to a general manager or HR instead of someone with specialized knowledge and training. That simply isn’t good enough: In a recent suit regarding alleged discrimination against McDonald’s workers, the federal court ruled that the company asked workers “to report sex harassment to certain managers who Defendants fail to properly train on how to investigate, discipline, or remediate sex harassment.”² As is often the case, the workers’ request in this regard was simple: for the company to investigate employee complaints using people who are skilled in conducting and documenting workplace investigations in a trauma-informed way. 

The error of trusting business managers or HR to investigate sexual harassment or discrimination becomes obvious when one considers the way a company might respond to another type of employee misconduct: financial fraud. If a company discovered potential financial fraud by its CFO, they would be advised to call an independent auditor or forensic accountant, someone who is an expert at understanding financial misconduct. The average business manager might be able to tell that the cash register was short $100, or that an expense report looked suspicious, but only someone with specialized knowledge and training would know what steps to take, information to collect, and questions to ask to arrive at a complete picture of the financial situation. 

We believe that allegations of workplace misconduct like sexual harassment and discrimination should not be left to managers, HR, or internal legal resources to investigate. These investigations require a knowledge of the biases and misconceptions that fuel and excuse this conduct, trauma, sexual offending behavior, and trauma-informed and behavioral-based interviewing practices in order to gather the most relevant information about what is being alleged. 

Redirect’s team of investigative and behavioral specialists has the specialized knowledge, training, and experience to conduct a scientific, trauma-informed, and objective investigation that ensures your management has a complete picture of what is alleged to have occurred so they can make an informed decision about what to do next. Founded by a board-certified forensic psychologist, Redirect brings a level of expertise to an employee misconduct investigation that your team, customers, leadership, and board members can trust.

To contact Redirect, call 877.450.2797 or email us at contact@redirectrisk.com.

¹ https://www.eeoc.gov/select-task-force-study-harassment-workplace-report-co-chairs-chai-r-feldblum-victoria-lipnic
² Fairley v. McDonald’s Corporation, 20-cv-02273, N.D. Ill. Jul. 20, 2021 https://casetext.com/case/fairley-v-mcdonalds-corporation/