What Happens After The Investigation? Investigating A Crime

What happens after the investigation? Administrative or internal investigations are conducted when allegations of a violation of policy or procedure, the ethics code, or a state or federal statute arise. Complaints and allegations will be kept private unless an investigation or other action is required.

What Happens After The Investigation?

Investigations are objective, comprehensive, and in-depth fact-finding efforts to determine whether or not the actions occurred and whether or not the allegation is substantiated.

Follow up with participants

Once the investigation is complete, it provides a good opportunity to understand the investigation’s participants

The reporters

Includes the person who made the report. In some cases, the reporter will be an employee of the company, but the reporter may also be an outsider. Both ways, it needs to be communicated to them that the investigation was completed in a commercially reasonable way and that the process is done.

If this is done, the perception will likely be that the initial report was not investigated, swept under the rug, or that it fell into an operational black hole in the corporate bureaucracy. A proper response instead closes the process, reinforces its fairness, and it may anticipate (or pre-empt) the contact by a dissatisfied reporter to executive management, a regulator, or the media.

Care must, however, be taken to not breach confidentiality obligations or disclose anything that could be construed as an admission of company liability. The easiest approach is usually to tell them: “thanks for reporting the matter,” “the investigation is now complete,” “a report will be made to management,” and “that any corrective action, if necessary, will be promptly taken.”

Don’t disclose whether the allegation was substantiated or specifically what disciplinary action may be taken against employees. The reporter only has a reasonable expectation to be informed that their concerns were handled appropriately.

The witnesses

The next group to consider is witnesses. In a typical investigation, the witnesses are co-workers of both the reporter and the implicated person. Consequently, the witnesses are likely to learn indirectly about the outcome of the investigation through the grapevine or through gossip. Many investigators forget that today’s witness can be tomorrow’s reporter if the situation is managed well.

As part of the closing steps, consider asking each witness the following questions:

Do they believe that the investigation was conducted in a thorough, independent, and objective way?

Do they currently have any concerns regarding possible retaliation or breach of confidentiality?

Are they aware of any actual or suspected misconduct which was not covered by the investigation? (I am thinking of the possibility that there may be something else out there that their confidence in what the investigator did now encourages them to report.)

If they learn of something in the future, would they be willing to report it to the company through one of the reporting channels, including the hotline?

Have they been advised that the investigation has been concluded?

If the answers reveal any areas of concern for the investigator, further discussions are needed immediately.

By asking these five questions, it can be ensured that the reputation of the process is protected. It can also provide an opportunity to learn of other issues and can help encourage future reporting. At a minimum, this step helps re-establishing the organization’s ethics and values and demonstrates that the organization is serious about maintaining a safe and productive workplace.

The Decision-Makers

This includes those who will act on the findings. The decision-making team should use the findings to determine an appropriate response to the incident. If the investigation team’s responsibilities involve recommending corrective action, verify that the actions were taken. If the discipline falls short of termination, confirm that the implicated person was disciplined. If the employee was told to complete a training program, has it happened?

If a change in reporting relationships was recommended, has that taken place? There is no requirement that management must follow an investigator’s recommendation; however, unless the file reflects an informed management decision to take a different approach, it will appear that the findings and the underlying problem were ignored. 

After a short interval of time, consider checking with the reporter to confirm that the misconduct (if proven) has stopped, no retaliation has taken place and that the relevant co-workers consider the matter resolved. Should any problems during these conversations come to light, take action right away.

Future Considerations

Some investigations reveal bigger problems that should be addressed. These may include confusion or uncertainty about a specific company policy or the need for some additional guidance about handling workplace behaviors correctly. 

A professional investigator knows that once they become involved in handling a report, they own the process through to completion and are responsible for almost everything that happens. 

Final Thoughts

When the investigation is finished, the investigator will conduct a thorough analysis of the facts, statements, and evidence gathered, which will be compiled in a file to produce a comprehensive report. The investigative findings will be provided to the appropriate department and administrator/supervisor to determine whether the university should take corrective or disciplinary action. Any disciplinary or corrective action taken against an employee will be in accordance with the terms of the applicable state employee agreement.

To the extent permitted by law, the office of quality assurance and financial compliance will notify all relevant parties in writing of the investigation’s conclusion and, if applicable, the investigation’s outcome.

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