The Very BEST Practices for Investigations

This is a guest post written by Elizabeth B. Hawkins, Esq., CCEP, Vice President & Assistant General Counsel of Targa Resources Corp.

There are many reasons that an internal investigation is required and by means in which they can become known to the company. Internal investigations should be conducted when there are allegations of minor errors in reporting or violations of company policies or procedures or allegations of misconduct in the workplace. The main goal of any internal investigation is to provide a sound, factual basis for the internal investigator to determine if there is a violation of the company’s code of conduct, relevant policies or violations of laws and make a recommendation to management as to whether an employment decision should be made. Consequently, the investigation should produce reliable documentation that can be used to support that employment decision.

This paper is not intended to address an investigation needed for a violation of state or federal law or regulations. These kinds of investigations should occur if there are allegations of misconduct that could result in criminal prosecution or civil litigation, the allegations had been publicized, or threats to report to a government agency.


I. Understanding and Assessing the Report

Step 1: General Intake – the Report received

While many employee disputes, discrimination or harassment allegations, safety concerns or other employee misconduct are directed to the Human Resources Department, many such complaints come through the company’s ethics and compliance hotline. Regardless of how they are brought to light, an assessment must be made as to whether an internal investigation is needed.

Case management begins with the initial report and a well-defined process lends credibility to each investigation. Consequently, a focus must first be on the allegations. Are they reasonable? Do they make sense? Can they be adequately evaluated to determine if an investigation is necessary? Is there enough information to move forward? The first step in any internal investigation starts with establishing the credibility of the report. And, you cannot forget that, depending on your internal metrics protocol, the clock starts ticking when that report is made. More importantly, depending on the allegations, there may be a need for immediate action to stop serious misconduct which could harm people or property.

Step 2: Interview Reporter if possible

Depending on the report, there may be a need to clarify or obtain additional facts…