Brooke Iley and Mark Blondman, partners at Blank Rome in Washington D.C., have put together a helpful article for in-house counsel who conduct internal investigations in response to employee complaints:
"Disgruntled employees raise issues every day, and every day employers respond by conducting some type of internal investigation. To warrant an immediate and thorough internal investigation, employee complaints need not be in writing or "formally" made. The key ingredient in any investigation is preparation.
Be mindful that a complaint is not always the event that triggers a company’s duty to investigate. The duty arises when an employer observes acts or statements that suggest prohibited activity. Prudent employers often investigate even without a clear legal mandate. An employee complaint can be about virtually any aspect of the employment relationship, but the most frequently raised concerns deal with harassment, discrimination, ethical violations and retaliation. Whatever the complaint, recent legal decisions have made certain that employers have an unequivocal duty to investigate promptly and thoroughly as soon as the employer is put on notice of possible wrongdoing. See Hardage v. CBS Broad, Inc, 427 F.3d 11 (2005)."