When you conduct an internal investigation, other employees involved in the investigation are going to figure out what the allegations are. But you don’t have to worry about a defamation lawsuit following the investigation if you strive to keep the matter confidential.
Recent case: Schewislzer Lewis worked as a photographer for a news station. A co-worker reported that he had seen Lewis view “inappropriate material” on company video equipment and the company launched an investigation. It spoke with co-workers, but told them to keep the matter confidential.
The allegedly inappropriate material turned out to be video footage for a commercial, and Lewis was cleared.
He sued, alleging the company defamed him. But the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed the case, reasoning that “statements made during private, intra-corporate investigations conducted in good faith” aren’t defamatory. (Lewis v. Meredith Corp., No. A08A1173, Court of Appeals of Georgia, 2008)