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Add credibility to your investigations: Have employee sign off on your notes

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

If you interview employees during the course of misconduct investigations, make sure to take accurate notes. Then, before concluding the interview, have the employee read and sign the notes, attesting that they accurately reflect what was said.

Recent case: A male worker at a Florida water treatment facility filed a sexual harassment complaint against his female boss, saying she propositioned him for sex, sent him provocative notes and exposed her breasts to him.

When HR interviewed the female boss, she denied the accusations and claimed the two had actually engaged in a consensual sexual relationship. She did admit writing several notes discussing their relationship.

She signed off on HR’s notes, agreeing that they accurately reflected who said what during the interview. The manager ultimately lost her job.

She then sued for sex bias, alleging she had been targeted because of her gender. She also claimed the investigation had been bogus and that the notes didn’t reflect what she actually said during the interview.

The court said she couldn’t challenge the legitimacy of the notes because she had signed them right after the interview. That made it hard for her to deny that she essentially admitted propositioning the supervisor. (Moghaddam-Trimble v. South Florida Waste Management, No. 11-14040, 11th Cir., 2012)

Final tip: Don’t let the employee put off signing. In the early stages of an investigation, she’s likely to cooperate because she doesn’t yet know the outcome. If she has time to think about it, she may not sign.

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