Public And Private Businesses Trust Us
If an organization needs an answer about an issue affecting its workplace, we can help it find the relevant facts and deal successfully with its effects. Public and private businesses of all sizes have called upon us to probe and advise them on matters encompassing criminal and civil law issues. Clients also frequently call upon us to conduct confidential internal and formal official investigations of a wide variety of topics. These issues include theft, embezzlement, sexual harassment or other discrimination, corporate assets misappropriation, trade secrets disclosure, and whistleblowing claims.
They involve unlawful discrimination or harassment, supervisory favoritism, incompetence leading to turnover, employee alienation, and vulnerability to union organization. Our Firm provides efficient, thorough, meticulous, and independent investigative services and reports to enable private and public sector employers to resolve internal problems that have the potential to damage reputations and public support, investor relations, and employee trust.
DeLong, Caldwell, Bridgers, Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC workplace investigation attorneys are well-known both for their comprehensive knowledge of workplace laws and regulations, the best human resources practices, and their practical experience in assisting employers in applying them to the myriad of circumstances and problems arising in workplaces.
Their knowledge is accumulated from decades of practicing employment and labor law, conducting workplace investigations, advising employers on the applicable legal requirements and their implications, and teaching in graduate university settings and managerial and supervisory workshops. It also derives from their long experience in litigating employment issues. It has contributed to our unique “360-degree approach” to workplace investigations, the results of which never have been challenged successfully in any court or agency.
Mr. Caldwell has served as my personal attorney (25 years), legal advisor for the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (28 years), and as Parliamentarian for International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) during my term as IACP President. In each of those roles his legal counsel, performance, advice, and services in all matters has been the gold standard by which I measure other attorneys. In all cases I have found him to be adroit, honest, intelligent, and forthright. I give Mr. Caldwell my highest unqualified recommendation.
When should I open a workplace investigation?
Once an allegation is made, the investigation should begin as soon as possible. Delays in opening an inquiry can be detrimental to the investigation process. Witnesses may leave or become unavailable. Records may be lost or destroyed. Electronic evidence may become corrupt and unusable. Individuals’ memories of important details may fade. If you need assistance with a workplace investigation, call the DCBFB attorneys for experienced investigators.
What are the steps in the workplace investigation process?
The first step is to define what is to be investigated, including legal or regulatory limits to the investigatory methods. For example, the federal Polygraph Protection Act usually prohibits private employers from using deception-detection technology. But no similar prohibition binds state and local government employers. If a matter under investigation might have criminal law implications, the employer must determine whether an employee’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination is implicated and how to obtain the information without making eventual criminal prosecution impossible. If the employer has a union contract, this also may have some bearing on the investigative techniques. Other questions need to be answered such as whether to allow an employee to have an employee witness, union representative, or even a personal attorney present during investigatory interviews. Should you allow an employee to record the interview? Should the employer record the interview? What assurances should you provide to the interviewee?
The next step is to prepare to conduct the interview process: The setting for the investigatory interviews is important. First, one must select a location that can ensure privacy and comfort for both the witness and the investigator. Then, normally starting with the accusing party, the investigator will prepare the questions carefully, examining each witness’s performance and discipline history, and staying alert to any facts or circumstances that might affect the witness’s objectivity, truthfulness, or ability to observe and reliably comment upon the alleged facts. The investigator prepares for each interview, including the accuser, the accused, and each witness they name. The investigator outlines the particular topics on which he will question each witness to ensure every fact relevant to the outcome of the investigation and the recommendations to be made are thoroughly and impartially examined.
The investigator then conducts each interview, usually starting with the accuser, followed by the accused. This allows the investigator to focus the investigation, establishing reference points for broadly framing the factual issues, identifying potential witnesses, and relevant documents likely to yield useful evidence. The investigator decides when and how hard to press the witness, whether to confront them with perceived inconsistencies in their accounts and when to loop back and re-interview other witnesses. Once each individual likely to know relevant facts has been interviewed, both the accuser and the accused are assured of internal due process in the investigation, and the organization can be confident about the results reported.
Finally, the investigator prepares a report making findings and recommendations to the organization that retained that person. The investigator’s report must ensure that the questions posed at the beginning of the investigation have been examined and must report upon them. S/he also must consider whether the report is likely to become public, such as where the investigation is conducted on behalf of a governmental employer. This will determine the phrasing and the detail included in the report and its recommendations.
How can I prevent a hostile work environment for employees?
Our firm counsels employers on the adoption of proactive measures they can take to avoid legal liability and to avert potential management problems, including:
- Using employee handbooks and other methods of employee communication to clarify that unethical or illegal conduct such as unlawful discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated and will be stopped.
- Establishing anti-discrimination training for managers and employees.
- Ensure all employees, managers, and executives understand the process for reporting complaints and their individual responsibilities when they learn of such complaints or problems.
- We offer comprehensive reviews of company policies and can guide you about other possible prevention strategies.
Why should I use an outside investigator?
Private businesses don’t usually maintain trained investigators on their staff. Even if they do, leaving the investigation to inside employees opens the results to the appearance of bias and cover-up. Utilizing outside investigators assures more independence and objectivity in the investigatory process. This affords greater credibility to the results. Outside investigators are less susceptible to control or influence from managers or executives having an interest in the outcome. Their loyalty is owed to the organization that hires them to find the unvarnished truth in the investigation. Outside investigators can ask the hard questions that insider investigators would hesitate to examine. This allows them to expose matters that powerful executives would prefer to keep hidden for reasons that do not serve the organization’s best interests.
Why use an independent investigator rather than internal affairs in law enforcement investigations?
Different types of issues require different types of investigative expertise. Like any public employer, the police department can be investigated for many violations, including but not limited to whistle-blower complaints, unlawful discrimination, harassment charges, wage-hour violations, and unlawful retaliation. Most law enforcement departments maintain internal bureaus or offices to investigate police misconduct. These commonly are designated the “Internal Affairs Office” or “Office of Professional Standards.” Individuals assigned to these offices are specially trained to investigate and determine whether law enforcement officers have violated criminal laws or their departments’ internal standing orders or standard operating procedures.
Internal affairs investigators are excellent at investigating allegations of criminal and other misconduct involving law enforcement ethics. These investigators frequently receive specialized POST-certified training that focuses on criminal and internal administrative matters. However, they usually receive little or no training in employment or labor law issues. Thus, they are not equipped to inquire into whistle-blower complaints, unlawful discrimination, or harassment charges. Claims of wage-hour law violations and unlawful retaliation usually are beyond what they learn in most internal affairs investigation courses. Our firm is uniquely equipped to assist law enforcement agencies in such cases. Our attorneys are experts in federal and state labor and employment law — especially those laws and regulations affecting police and sheriff’s agencies.
Skilled Lawyers Clarify How to Deal With an Employee Complaint
An employer who learns an employee believes they have been mistreated or subjected to a hostile work environment must promptly, thoroughly, and objectively address such problems. The first step is to define the questions so the investigation will be properly focused and efficiently conducted. This enables the employer to gather the necessary information to determine the problem’s validity and true dimensions.
Even complaints appearing as minor sometimes mask more serious issues looming below the organization’s surface. Such complaints may have a far larger potential for causing economic or other harm to the organization. To err on the side of caution by initiating a thorough investigation is often best to protect the employer’s interests, especially where complaints about executives’ or managers’ decisions reflect directly upon the organization’s integrity and the lawfulness of its policies and practices.
For more information on ways to avoid employee complaints, visit our Workplace Investigations FAQ page.
Many scenarios demand a workplace investigation by skilled investigators with a solid knowledge of the law and experience applying them in business settings. Government agencies and businesses of all sizes have called upon our attorneys over the years to investigate allegations including theft, embezzlement, expense account padding, and internal policy violations.
Workplace investigations are essential for a successful outcome where the allegations relate to harassment, discrimination, retaliation, whistleblower claims, favoritism, intimidation, unsafe work conditions, or a hostile work environment. In addition, an investigation may uncover violations of internal policies or federal or state employment laws and assist the organization in formulating effective responses to the allegations. We can advise you about investigative steps to take based on the unique circumstances of your case.
Michael, I want to thank you for the good work you did on behalf of the Savannah Airport Commission. We retained you and your firm to conduct an investigation concerning issues in the operation of our police department. You handled this matter thoroughly, and gave us good legal advice, which assisted us in resolving our issues expeditiously. Your depth of experience in the problems of police departments was very helpful. I look forward to working with you again in the future.
B.S., General Counsel, Savannah Airport Commission
For a step-by-step explanation of our Firm’s approach to investigations, check out our Workplace Investigations FAQ page.
Law Enforcement Department Investigations
Most law enforcement departments maintain internal bureaus or offices to investigate police misconduct. These commonly are designated the “Internal Affairs Office” or “Office of Professional Standards”. Individuals assigned to these departments frequently receive specialized POST-certified training that focuses on criminal and internal administrative matters. These investigators are specially trained to examine and determine whether law enforcement officers have violated criminal laws, their departments’ internal standing orders, or standard operating procedures.
They are familiar with “Garrity warnings,” criminal justice concepts, and criminal standards of proof that apply to the charges they investigate. However, they rarely are trained in employment or labor law issues. They are not equipped to inquire into whistleblower complaints, unlawful discrimination, or harassment charges. Claims of wage-hour law violations and illegal retaliation usually are beyond what they learn in most internal affairs investigation courses. Thus, they require specialized investigators knowledgeable in all areas of employment law.
Major differences exist between the principles applicable to such claims compared to the policy or criminal law violations they usually investigate. For example, an inquiry into a sexual harassment charge raised by a subordinate against a peer or superior officer differs greatly from an investigation into a criminal corruption or insubordination claim. How a law enforcement agency internally investigates such allegations may become a critical element in an agency’s defense against or liability for civil rights law violations. It may be scrutinized or second-guessed by federal administrative agencies and ultimately by the Courts.
Investigations of such matters require extensive knowledge of federal and state employment laws and regulations, plus critical differences in determining whether violations of these requirements or rules exist. Yet, even with internal affairs investigators for the largest and most sophisticated law enforcement agencies, the knowledge and experience needed to conduct thorough and competent investigations into employment law, and civil rights violations in these matters are insufficient.
Our firm is uniquely equipped to assist law enforcement agencies in such cases. Our attorneys are experts in federal and state labor and employment law – especially those laws and regulations affecting police and sheriff’s agencies. Serving for nearly thirty years as General Counsel to the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, including a term as an Executive Board member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Michael Caldwell has counseled leadership of state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies and professional associations on human resource management issues arising every day in their agencies.
He also teaches graduate-level public employee management law at the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College, at numerous seminars throughout the United States, and at FBI-LEEDS programs as General Counsel for the Georgia FBI National Academy Associates.
Contact an experienced investigations attorney for help with workplace complaints
At DeLong, Caldwell, Bridgers, Fitzpatrick & Benjamin, LLC our attorneys have extensive experience investigating workplace complaints to help employers resolve potentially damaging issues. To schedule a consultation, call our firm at or contact us online. Our office is ADA accessible.