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Workplace investigations sensitive and important processes

By Bob Arden / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
April 18, 2017

Healthcare facilities are filled with professionals who, in a sense, are detectives. Doctors and nurses have to follow leads, examine evidence and interview patients to determine what exactly is going on with their health. Each and every day, healthcare providers are conducting investigations, and it’s no different for the HR departments of those facilities and organizations. Instead of diagnosing illnesses and injuries, however, HR professionals at healthcare facilities have to be detectives in different ways.

The role of an HR professional already is in many ways like being a detective. An HR professional must investigate job candidates and determine whether or not they are a good fit for the organization based on evidence. Although, there are times when the HR professional has to be a detective in a more literal sense. These occur when an HR professional needs to conduct an investigation into a workplace dispute or any kind of misconduct in the workplace. By some measures, HR professionals spend as much as 60 percent of their time resolving disputes in the workplace, and in many cases these disputes are resolved after conducting an investigation.

No matter whether HR professionals in the healthcare sphere have to investigate instances of alleged malpractice, sexual misconduct or drug use by an employee, a significant part of their responsibility is knowing how to respond to the allegations and follow them up with a proper investigation. In most cases, proper handling of such an investigation can prevent more serious damage to the organization and prevent the possibility that it would be exposed to further liability.

Because conducting a workplace investigation is such a sensitive and important process, it is extremely important that HR professionals in the healthcare sector and beyond have a solid plan in place when they begin an investigation. This starts with determining whether or not it is appropriate for the investigation to be handled internally, or if an outside investigator is warranted. If the investigation is to be handled internally, the HR professional should begin to collect information through interviews with the employees allegedly involved in the incident, as well as any possible witnesses to the incident.

Along with gathering evidence through interviews, HR professionals conducting a workplace investigation will most likely need to collect evidence in the form of documentation such as emails, personnel files or formal company policies. Once the investigators have all of the evidence they need in their possession, it is time for them to evaluate all of the evidence to determine exactly what happened, how it may have violated company policies or the law, and then determine where the fault lies. The final step would be to take any appropriate action, which may include changes to company policy, disciplinary action, termination of an employee or even referral to the authorities.

One of the most important things for HR professionals to remember is to keep the entire process open and transparent to all appropriate parties. Often, the biggest mistake HR professionals make during an investigation is failing to keep all involved parties informed about the investigation’s progress. Because of this lack of communication, many complaining parties may feel as though the company is ignoring their complaints. They will likely seek outside counsel from an attorney. This will lead to more complications and potentially expose the company to further liability.

Internal investigations within a healthcare organization or any other type of workplace need to be handled delicately, and with complete professionalism by HR representatives. The following guide outlines the main steps HR professionals need to take to ensure their investigations are completed properly and without risk of additional complications.

Author bio: Bob Arden has been a licensed private detective in Illinois for over 30 years with Arkus, Inc. He has provided investigative services to Fortune 500 companies, attorneys, insurance companies as well as private individuals. His experience and knowledge has led to successful results for the client. 



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