Do I Need Proof Before Beginning an Employee Investigation?

by Evil HR Lady on June 25, 2019

An employee recently came forward with an accusation that two other employees were selling and buying drugs in the company parking lot. My boss says we can only investigate if the complaining employee has proof of the problem. This is his policy for all employee complaints, even harassment.┬áHe says that if the complaining employee doesn’t provide proof, we can be accused of unfair targeting. Is this how a Human Resources investigation should be conducted?

To read my answer, click here: Do I Need Proof Before Beginning an Employee Investigation?

Leave your answer in the comments!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Tmt Aba June 25, 2019 at 12:40 pm

This piece isn’t just valuable but a true game changer. Such cases need to be addressed well instead of getting neglected. I really liked the way you specify the steps an employee and the boss should consider.

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grannybunny June 25, 2019 at 1:35 pm

I work for a United States Government agency. We are subjected to pre-employment drug tests and are instructed that we may be subjected to a random one at any point during our employment. In addition, employees can be drug-tested “for cause,” which is a very low bar, basically, anytime there is any type of suspicion that they may be somehow involved with drugs. I believe that in my agency, the employees reportedly dealing drugs in the parking lot would be drug-tested, if for no other reason than to clear them of any such suspicions.

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GreenDoor June 25, 2019 at 3:25 pm

An internal investigation is not a court of law. You do not need a preponderance of the evidence to simply investigate. The LW’s manager is lazy. The idea that a manager merely asking questions, or taking a closer look at financials or video footage is somehow unfairly targeting anyone is ludacris. What if there is a pattern of people complaining? Do you ignore a whole group of peole all saying the same thing jsut ‘cuz there’s no evidence? What if the complainants are members of a vulnerable population. (I work in education…I’d lose my job if someone made an accusation about something involving a child and I didn’t investigate it). Not every situation is going to be caught on camera or involve forensic evidence. A manager shouldn’t be so worried about the appearance of targeting the accused that they neglect to take a victim or a whistleblower seriously.

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Goober June 25, 2019 at 5:36 pm

Proof is the goal of an investigation, not the cause of it.

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Norman Henderson June 26, 2019 at 1:19 am

I understand your boss’ reluctance; he is your boss so tread further at your own risk. On the other hand drug abuse could lead to impaired employees and potential injury or poor decision making. Drug deals in the parking lot could also involve violent individuals on your premises. At the least I would perk my ears up, look at recent performance reviews for the employees in question and if there is decline then have a heart to heart with the boss.

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jdgalt June 26, 2019 at 5:03 am

If I saw actual criminal behavior such as in your example, I would bring it to the attention of law enforcement — not HR. HR is not competent to handle such things and is more likely to punish you for reporting them than to do anything helpful.

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Norman Henderson June 27, 2019 at 2:26 am

There are good reasons why going right to Law Enforcement in this situation is a bad idea. First is you don’t want your managers getting blindsided by the police response. Second the police may not even be permitted to come on the property to investigate an allegation of a past tense crime. Third what the person saw may not have been an illegal act at all. Fourth HR should be Competent to take the preliminary steps needed to determine whether involving law enforcement is the right move and may have liaison with the local police to have things done properly but not putting the company in a bad light. I could go on.

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