In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the role of investigations within HR and employment law. It is well-established that employers have a duty to investigate allegations of misconduct prior to taking disciplinary action. There is also a duty to investigate allegations of harassment or discrimination. There has been much emphasis on the manner of investigating such matters, and the need to be fair and impartial while also acting expeditiously. In the HR Law for HR Professionals course that I created for Osgoode Professional Development several years ago, investigations used to be a small part of one module. They now fill an entire day of the five day course. That is a clear indication of their growing importance.
As I head to Osgoode Professional Development for module 3 of the course that my partner and I are Directors of, HR Law for HR Professionals, I am contemplating one of the aspects of HR law that has changed significantly in recent years: investigations.
The law of employment, like every area, is always evolving. This often works to the consternation of both employers and employees, who would like to have a sense of certainty regarding their rights and obligations. While it may sound self-serving, the ongoing evolution of the law is another reason why it is important to work with an employment lawyer on a regular basis, rather than consult once and assume that the law is the same a decade later. The cases below also serve as reminders of the unpredictability of the law.