Business owners turn to HR firms when they want to protect their company and their employees. When an incident occurs, it’s important to be legally compliant. As seen in our previous article, Tips for Effective Workplace Investigations – Part 1, we gave you lots of helpful tools when dealing with a workplace investigation. In this article, we will provide several tips for the interviews and sample questions to go along with it. Let’s get to it! 

Tips for Investigative Interviews

  • Come prepared to the meeting with a list of questions you want to ask the employee.
  • Depending on how emotional or inflammatory the situation is, consider (in advance) if you should have another manager present for the interview, especially when interviewing the accused.
  • Express appreciation for the employee’s time and cooperation.
  • Explain the nature of what is being investigated. Be careful not to include too much detail so as not to influence the witness’s recollection of the event.
  • Note that the matter under investigation is serious and that the company has a commitment/obligation to investigate this claim.
  • Do not promise complete confidentiality: Inform the employee that you must report such complaints to your Director or CEO, and confidentiality will be respected as much as possible, although it cannot be assured in order to investigate fully and properly.
  • Stress that any attempt to influence the outcome of the investigation by discussing it with others, retaliation against anyone who participates, providing false information or failure to be forthcoming can be the basis for corrective action up to and including termination.
  • Emphasize that no conclusion will be made until all of the facts have been gathered and analyzed.
  • Interview the accused or potentially involved person(s) with a view toward finding out what happened. Ask for information that clears and defends the accused. Provide detailed allegations to the accused to allow complete and fair answers. Ask for witnesses to current and past events. Collect relevant documents.
  • Assess when the accuser/witness should be asked to put their claim(s) in writing. Seek legal guidance if needed.
  • Re-interview (or conduct additional interviews) based on new information and issues. Present new allegations to the accused.
  • Keep good notes of interviews, responses, dates/times, efforts, results, actions, and refusals. Assume all documents will be seen by a jury. Avoid gratuitous conclusions and speculations. Only write what you were told and what you saw.

Sample Questions

For the Accuser

  • Who committed the alleged inappropriate behavior?
  • What exactly happened?
  • When did the incident occur or is it ongoing?
  • Where did the incident occur?
  • How did you react?
  • Did you ever indicate that you were offended or somehow displeased by the act or offensive treatment?
  • Who else may have seen or heard the incident?
  • Have you discussed the incident with anyone?
  • Did the person who harassed you harass anyone else? If so, who?
  • Do you know whether anyone complained about harassment by that person? If yes, who?
  • How has the behavior affected you and your job?
  • Are there any notes, physical evidence, or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • Is there anyone else who may have relevant information?
  • Do you have any other relevant information?
  • What action do you want the company to take?
  • When did you first learn of the Company’s Anti-Harassment and EEO Policy? (If not provide a written copy of the policy and note below).

For the Witness(es)

  • There was a situation that we are looking into that occurred between (employees’ names) on DATE. I heard that you were present at that time and may have witnessed what happened. Can you give me your account of that situation?
  • Are you aware of behavior by the accused toward the complainant or toward others in the workplace?
  • What did the complainant tell you? When did he or she tell you this?
    Do you know if the complainant reported the concern to his or her supervisor?
  • Upon knowledge of the incident(s), did you report it to your supervisor?
  • Do you have any notes, physical evidence or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?
  • Are there other persons who have relevant information?

For the Accused

  • Described the encounter you had with (NAME) on (DATE).
  • What interactions have you had with (the Accuser) since the incident?
  • It has been reported to us that you may have been engaging in behavior that is in violation of Company policy. Specifically, you have been reported to have (state behavior or incident). Do you see any reason why an employee would report such an incident?
  • Do you have any notes, physical evidence or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • Is there anyone else who may have witnessed the encounter or have any relevant information?
  • Do you have any other relevant information?

Using a professional HR firm, you know that both your workplace and employees will be protected. With our HR Consultants as your partner, you can handle any complaints the right way. By outsourcing your HR department to ConnectedHR, you can remain calm, confident and focused on doing what you do well. That’s just good business.