You have rights as employees during a workplace investigation. If you work for the government or have a collective bargaining agreement, these can be very potent arguments. Your employer must nevertheless adhere to business policies when conducting the internal investigation. They are also prohibited from breaking the law as they look into your possible crime.
Additionally, you are protected by the law from being punished for exercising other workplace rights. If you believe you are being retaliated against for whistleblowing, up to and including being wrongfully terminated, contact PLBSH at (800) 435-7542 for a free legal consultation.
What are the rights I have as an employee under the employment contract?
Frequently, your employment contract or employee handbook will provide specific instructions on how to conduct an internal workplace investigation. Every employer has a different set of rules. But often, they demand that all workplace investigations give you a chance to be heard, prohibit decision-makers from having an interest in the result of the investigation, give you access to information or material that is being used against you, shield you from termination or other disciplinary action if there is no proof of wrongdoing, and be completed quickly.
Additionally, some businesses permit you to retain counsel throughout an internal investigation. But not everyone does.
Your employer must follow the terms of your contract
You have contractual rights during the internal investigation under the terms of your contract. These rights and obligations must be upheld by your employer. You may be able to sue your employer if they break them. You can conduct your own in-depth investigation and fact-finding mission by establishing an attorney-client relationship and seeking legal counsel from an attorney. This can aid in defending against the investigation and getting ready for a subsequent lawsuit.
Do I have any legal protections while a company investigates me?
Yes, employees who are the subject of a workplace investigation have a number of legal protections under both state and federal employment law. Among the most significant are legal safeguards provided by federal law against harassment in the workplace, discrimination, wrongful termination, and workplace reprisals.
Your employer is prohibited from conducting an investigation for the improper reasons thanks to these rights. For instance, you cannot be subjected to a negative employment action by your employer following an internal investigation if you submitted a claim for discrimination or harassment, reported to law enforcement a legal infraction occurring at work, such as fraud, asked for appropriate accommodations for a handicap, or engaged as a whistleblower.
You have options if your rights are violated
You may typically bring a lawsuit against your employer if they wrongfully violate any of these rights. Additionally, you have the legal right to decline to take part in the investigation. However, using this legal right typically results in termination if your work contract calls for you to collaborate and respond to inquiries. While this may halt an investigation into possible criminal behavior at work, your employer may still forward the results of the inquiry to law enforcement so that the investigation can proceed.
Are there any activities that my employer cannot engage in?
Your privacy rights cannot be violated by your employer during an internal investigation. If they do violate someone’s privacy, a lawsuit might result. Instances of employers abusing your privacy rights during a workplace investigation include some of the following: searching through your personal phone, recording phone calls or interviews in violation of the wiretapping laws in your state, or otherwise keeping an eye on your professional activities in ways not specified in the job contract.
However, many employment agreements in the private sector anticipate these circumstances and grant employers broad discretion to observe employees or examine their personal property while on the job. Employment contracts, for instance, frequently give employers the authority to keep an eye on your computer use, give them access to your work email, and say that they can examine your things if you bring them to the workplace.
If you believe that your rights have been violated and need a consultation with an employment law attorney, we invite you to contact PLBSH at (800) 435-7542 for help right away.