How to Conduct a Remote Workplace Investigation

Given that many workplaces continue to operate with a largely or entirely remote workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for employers to understand the basics of conducting a thorough and effective remote workplace investigation. Many employers in Texas have developed methods and strategies for workplace investigations more generally, but some of those procedures may need to shift for a remote workplace investigation. It can be difficult to conduct a professional and effective remote workplace investigation interview over the computer, but it is certainly possible. The following are tips for employers who are conducting remote workplace investigations.

Invest in a Virtual Meeting Application

Many businesses in Texas already require remote employees to use applications like Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts for workplace meetings and other related tasks. Whether or not your employees already use virtual platforms like these for aspects of their work duties, it is critical to invest in an application for remote workplace investigation interviews. You should ensure that the application you choose allows you to share documents and related materials with the interviewee. You should also select an application that can be readily accessed from employees’ work computers.  While you certainly could conduct your interviews via telephone, body language and facial expressions are often important aspects of any interview.  Thus, a virtual meeting application is a superior choice.

Be Upfront About Technology

You will need to let each interviewee know about the application or platform you have selected for conducting workplace investigation interviews, and you will need to ensure that the interviewee or witness has the appropriate software and bandwidth to complete the interview. It is a good idea to have a test run prior to the interview to ensure that the interview itself will run smoothly.

You may need to let interviewees know that bandwidth can be affected if another person in the house is also using the internet at the same time, particularly for streaming or video conferencing.

Practice Doing Online Interviews

Conducting an interview in a workplace investigation can be quite different online as opposed to in person. When you are in a face-to-face interview, you can pay attention to the witness’s verbal responses and body language, and you can develop a rapport that can be difficult to achieve when you are on Zoom, for example. By practicing your remote interviewing methods ahead of time, you can help to make the witness feel more at ease and to engage with the witness in a manner that begins to replicate a face-to-face interview.  As a consideration, therefore, you should also consider a non-distracting background so that your interviewee can focus on you rather than the other items around you or behind you.

New Considerations About Remote Interviewing Privacy and Confidentiality

You should ensure that the interview is confidential, and that the interviewee is as comfortable as possible. You should plan to ask questions about the interviewee’s surroundings (e.g., is the interviewee in a private space?) to ensure that the interviewee is comfortable answering questions. Ideally, you should inform the interviewee in advance that he or she should plan to be in a private area away from other people and distractions.  You should also consider adding features to the virtual interviewing application or platform to ensure confidentiality. For example, an article in Bloomberg Law recommends using password and waiting room features to ensure that nobody aside from you and the interviewee are present in the interview space.

Contact a Dallas Employment Lawyer for Help with Workplace Investigations

It can be challenging to conduct your own workplace investigations, particularly when the matter concerns a sensitive complaint, and the pandemic has added further complications.  In some cases, your insurance company may require that you use an outside investigator.  If you need an objective third party to conduct your investigation, we can handle it for you.  Either way, the attorneys at Simon Paschal are here to assist.  If you have questions about conducting a remote workplace investigation internally or if you wish us to take over, contact Simon Paschal PLLC today.

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