Ordinarily, a solid workplace investigation rests on four pillars; namely – fairness, thoroughness, timeliness and confidentiality. If not handled appropriately, the COVID – 19 crisis has the potential to rock that foundation in two ways – it may impact the fairness and timeliness of an investigation.
We are now in a world where workplace harassment is taken much more seriously than it was before. Although some jurisdictions in Canada do not have an explicit legal obligation to investigate incidents of this nature, there is now a pressing moral obligation to do so. But when such a moral obligation is unmoored from legal principles or government-issued guidelines, there is a greater risk of unfairness to all parties. An investigation in this context is more likely to be guided by an emotional drive to either undermine those who raise complaints or persecute those who are alleged to have behaved badly, rather than arriving at factual findings from a neutral perspective using a fair investigation process.
A recent Human Rights Tribunal decision demonstrates that the short-term financial costs of an external investigation might also be balanced out by long-term financial savings.