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Top 5 Tips for Conducting a Remote Investigation

By: Carl Habekost, Esq.

chabekost@bugbeelawyers.com

Employers have had to change the way in which important business functions are executed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work practices.  This includes performing investigations remotely when necessary.  Remote investigations have their own unique challenges.  Here are five tips for employers when conducting a remote investigation.

 

  1. Develop a Plan: Employers should first determine who will conduct the investigation.  For instance, will the investigation be handled internally or by outside legal counsel?  The investigator(s) should identify witnesses, and review applicable company policies and relevant documents.  Developing a well thought out plan is important as more planning is required when witnesses are working from home and documents may not be readily accessible.
  2. Prepare for Remote Witness Interview: Normally, witnesses would be interviewed in person.  However, in a remote work environment, the best option is to conduct the interviews by video.  Both the investigator(s) and the witnesses should be familiar with the company’s video conferencing capacity and platform.  Further, and most important, when interviewing witnesses remotely, the investigator(s) must confirm the witness is alone and free from distractions, and that the meeting is not being recorded.
  3. Plan to Collect Documents and Data: Remote investigations can present challenges for document and data collection when hard copies are held in different locations.  Therefore, the investigator(s) should contact the custodians of the records and secure cooperation from them.  Employers should also maintain a record of steps taken to obtain the data and documents as well as ensure that the privacy of the information is secured.
  4. Prepare the Investigation Report: When preparing the report, the investigator(s) must reflect on the purpose of the investigation and who will be reading it.  Is the Human Resource Director or the President of the Company the primary recipient of the report?  This analysis will help guide the framework and scope of the report.  All investigation reports should include an outline of the investigation, a list of witnesses interviewed, identify the documents collected and reviewed, and include a conclusion.  The report should be specific about factual findings and carefully reflect on conclusions based on the facts.  The final investigation report must remain secure with restrictions on printing and circulation.
  5. Privacy Policies: The employer’s privacy policies are critical in any investigation situation.  The company’s data privacy policy should be clearly stated and known to all employees.  Further, given the nature of communication, employers must ensure that Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and other communication platforms are included in the company’s privacy policies to protect the privacy of conferences.

Please contact a member of our Labor and Employment Section with questions or concerns.

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