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Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge?

Workplace investigation can be smooth but can also be a witch hunt, depending upon how it is being conducted.

If your employer starts the process without informing you it might lead to building a wrong or bad image and even false accusations.

What we need to understand here is that although the employer has the right to figure out how things will proceed in his/her organization, an employee who is being investigated also has certain rights.

Let’s understand this better with the following pointers.

1. What is a Workplace Investigation?

Workplace investigations are just some activities that are done to collect some facts or evidence to get a better understanding of the real occurrence of an alleged or reported misdemeanor.

A reasonable investigation is necessary because if anything is conducted in a manner that is not appropriate it can be a grievance and can disrupt workplace discipline.

Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge
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If anything is conducted unlawfully or in an unfair manner then it can lead to severe repercussions and the organization will be at the risk of legal action against them.

Even before the investigation begins all the necessities should be clarified and the whole course of action should be laid out, and the best method of intervention should be used.

2. What is Being Investigated?

This is where the employer comes into play, he/she needs to have a clear understanding of what is being investigated.

Also what will be the purpose or the scope of that investigation, how will it proceed, and what will be the role of the investigator as well as the employer?

Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge
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This all can be termed as ‘terms of reference‘. It will also encompass the aim of investigation and requirements of the same.

Will it require a recommendation, when and how the results will be disclosed? Who will be the first receiver of those results and other such details?

3. How Long Should an Investigation Take?

Although it is obvious that any investigation needs to happen in a stipulated time frame this comes with an unsaid understanding that the investigator may take a little longer to be fair and justified in this process, there is a possibility of a new matter coming up in between the process so there has to be scope for that as well.

Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge
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If beforehand no timeframe has been given then it is the employer’s duty to tell the employee that he/she will be investigated in a provisional timeline wherein it will be conducted, and it should strictly be followed.

4. Informing the Employee

The only reason when the employee should not be informed about an investigation is when there is an impending chance of them tampering with the evidence or the witnesses of the case.

In all other cases, they should be informed that they are being investigated as soon as possible and preferably at a justifiable time before the investigation is supposed to open.

Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge
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The employee should also be made aware of the process of investigation, who will be carrying it out, and what all will be the steps in the process with a fair understanding of interpretations and repercussions.

5. Procedural Fairness

The employee in any workplace investigation should be given a fair chance at all steps of the process, no disciplinary action should be taken and there should be no constructive dismissal on any unfair grounds.

A democratic approach should be followed and stories and facts from both sides should be collected and given equal importance.

The employee who is being investigated should be given a clear and firm warning, and it should be indicative of the fact that if their behavior and performance do not improve it will affect their tenure.

Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge
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Along with this, they should be provided with adequate training, preparation, and skill development time so that they can improve and you should also make sure that the employee understands what the problem is and also its consequences.

6. Keeping the Matter Confidential

It is an unsaid understanding that all such matters are confidential, everyone that is involved in the process or has an active knowledge of the matter should be explained that breach of the same will lead to disciplinary actions.

The investigation and all its aspect like witness list, evidence, and other facts like timings, place, and procedures should be dealt with in a confidential manner only, and primarily only the employee who is investigated should know all details.

Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge
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7. Suspending an Employee in a Disciplinary Case

If the investigation needs to be protected, or the organization and its employees need the protection then the suspension can be chosen.

It can not merely be assigned as a disciplinary action because the employee is being investigated.

And in any case, if there is a scope of necessity of suspension then the employee should be informed in advance and it should also be made clear that it is not a part of any disciplinary action.

Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge
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8. Absence from the Investigation Meeting

The employee who is being investigated should be present for the same at the pre-scheduled time and place. In case he/she fails to do the same, it should be rearranged.

However, given a situation occurs where the employee misses the arrangement repeatedly then the investigation will be carried out even in his absence, by using the available evidence and information.

Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge
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In such a case the employer should inform the employee that informed decisions are being made and that the investigation is being carried out in the most fair way possible.

9. Final Thoughts

Once the investigation process is over the employee who is being investigated should be informed.

He/she also has the right to see the results once they have been provided to the person in charge.

Based on the report suitable actions are then taken, and whatever that was investigated is presented in a clear manner and conclusive reports are made.


Last Updated on December 14, 2023 by suchi


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. Overall, this was a great article with a unique point of view. Surely an employer has the right to conduct a secret workplace investigation. It may be the best way for them to uncover the truth.

  2. I found this article on workplace investigations quite insightful. It delves into the nuances of the process, emphasizing the potential impact on an employee’s image and the importance of informed participation. The explanation of workplace investigations and the balance between employer rights and employee rights is particularly well articulated. As someone interested in workplace dynamics, this provided valuable insights into maintaining fairness and discipline.

  3. This article delves into workplace investigations, exploring the potential pitfalls and employee rights. It stresses the need for a reasonable and lawful investigation, emphasizing terms of reference and procedural fairness. The duration of the investigation is discussed, with considerations for unforeseen circumstances. The importance of informing the employee about the investigation is highlighted, except in cases of potential evidence tampering.

  4. Explore Anushree Khandelwal’s insights on workplace investigations in “Can You Be Investigated At Work Without Your Knowledge?” Uncover the delicate balance between a smooth process and the potential pitfalls of a witch hunt.

    The article navigates the rights of employees undergoing investigation, emphasizing the importance of clarity in the investigative process. Khandelwal sheds light on the need for a reasonable and fair approach, preventing legal risks for organizations.

    A valuable read for both employers and employees, providing a comprehensive understanding of workplace investigations, their purpose, and the critical considerations in their execution.

  5. In most cases, employees should be informed about workplace investigations, unless there’s a risk of evidence tampering. Properly conducted investigations are essential for understanding alleged misconduct while maintaining workplace discipline. Clear terms of reference, including the purpose, scope, and timeline, should be established. Timely and fair investigations prevent legal repercussions.

  6. In my opinion, the article about workplace investigations was really instructive. It delves into the nuances of the method, emphasizing the need of informed participation and the potential consequences for an employee’s reputation. With the exception of cases where evidence may be manipulated, the need of informing the staff member about the investigation is highlighted.

  7. I think this topic is interesting. The thought of being checked at work without knowing makes me wonder about privacy and being clear. I want to know more about the rules and how to protect rights in these situations. Privacy at work is very important, and it’s necessary to know the limits for a good work atmosphere.

  8. It turns out that while I should respect my employer, there are boundaries that he shouldn’t cross either. It seems that I should be informed if I am being investigated for whatever reason. That’s unless I would interfere with the evidence. Thanks for enlightening me on such an important right in my workplace.

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