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Workplace Investigations

When Something Isn’t Right

Workplace investigations are an essential component of maintaining a fair and inclusive work environment. When clear policies are established, understood by everyone, and followed, an office can be a place that brings the best out of its employees.

Sometimes, however, problems develop that can create tension, distraction, and even harm in the workplace. For example, an employee might allege wage or hour violations, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, or an unsafe work environment. Alternatively, an employer may suspect theft or drug use at work. 

As an employer, you want to discover issues as soon as they arise and take appropriate action to care for employees and restore a safe working environment.

A workplace investigation is often necessary to accomplish this.

What are Workplace investigations?

A workplace investigation is a formal process of looking into an issue that has arisen on the job in order to collect the evidence needed to determine what happened. 

The goal is to come to an unbiased conclusion about the facts so management can determine whether any laws or workplace policies were violated, what actions to take in response, and how similar incidents might be prevented in the future.

Why might you need one?

Workplace investigations are appropriate whenever there are alleged violations of workplace policies or laws. Some common areas include:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Threats
  • Safety violations
  • Theft
  • Substance abuse

For many kinds of allegations, including those concerning safety or discrimination, an employer even has a legal responsibility to promptly investigate. Legal requirements aside, as a conscientious employer, you want to take seriously allegations of anything that might harm your employees and act quickly to redress the issue. 

How Ruben P. Ruiz PC Can Help

Companies will sometimes elect to conduct investigations internally if they have HR staff who are trained and skilled in this area. 

However, there are several challenges to doing investigations well. 

  • Knowing when it’s needed: You don’t want to conduct an investigation when a simple conversation is enough. But you can be legally liable if you fail to investigate when it is called for.
  • Knowing applicable laws: The laws and regulations that govern the workplace are complex. You need to know them well in order to know whether any of them have been violated.
  • Knowing how to proceed: There are right ways and wrong ways to conduct an investigation. Someone who isn’t trained and experienced risks poor results and even legal liability.
  • Getting an unbiased outcome: It is in an employer’s interest to find out what really happened but the biases of an internal team can get in the way.

Our attorney, Lisa Chapman, is a certified workplace investigator and a practicing lawyer who is an expert in employment law. She can provide the outside expertise you need to have confidence that your investigation will be conducted professionally, legally, efficiently, and successfully.  Complete the form below and put an end to workplace concerns.

California Workplace Investigation FAQs

Workplace investigations are necessary when an employee or contractor complains or alleges that he or she has suffered discrimination, harassment, retaliation, violations of company policies, or other types of misconduct. Under California Law (Gov. Code section 12940 (j)(1)(k)), employers have a duty to investigate all allegations of misconduct and take necessary corrective action. For a variety of reasons, these investigations should be conducted by qualified outside counsel.

Companies typically hire an outside attorney. It is best practice to use an attorney who holds an AWI-CH (Association of Workplace Investigators Certificate) to ensure that EEOC and DFEH compliance is met in an objective, unbiased, and compliant way. 

By utilizing outside legal representation for workplace investigations, a business is afforded some attorney-client privileges relating to communications and investigation discovery. These same privileges are not extended for investigations conducted by internal employees. Engaging an attorney to guide you through the process and ensure legal compliance will help with satisfying California and Federal requirements, as well as promote confidentiality.

The workplace investigator will prepare a written or verbal report of findings. This will be delivered to the company’s Internal Counsel, Compliance Department, and/or the Human Resources Department. This may be used to help facilitate mediation, negotiation, or other alternative dispute resolution processes to reach an amicable resolution. Ultimately, the company would use the investigator’s findings as a defense to litigation should the matter not be amicably resolved.

At Ruben Ruiz Law, our experts ensure that all workplace investigations meet EEOC and DFEH guidelines. 


These FAQs are intended for informational purposes only and are not to be taken as legal advice. Employers should consult with a qualified AWI-CH attorney to address their specific legal concerns regarding workplace investigations in California.