Frequently Asked Questions
Does every complaint require an investigation?
No. Some complaints do not require an investigation. If an employee complains about conduct that is prohibited by law (such as discrimination based on a protected class or retaliation based on protected conduct), the employer must investigate. An employer’s failure to investigate those types of complaints can expose the employer to liability. In addition, a sham investigation — one in which the employer is not genuinely concerned with whether the allegations are true — can also expose the employer to liability. Employee complaints about matters that fall within the employer’s prerogative typically do not require an investigation by law. For example, an employee’s complaint that he or she should be able to wear blue jeans on Friday or that he or she does not get enough annual sick leave does not require an investigation. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell whether the complaint is one that requires an investigation. Aequitas Counsel provides employers an initial assessment to determine whether the complaint is one that requires an investigation.
Why use an outside firm to conduct an investigation?
Most workplaces, universities and institutions have human resources personnel. Many also have in-house and external counsel. While many organizations have highly competent human resource personnel, using an outside investigations law firm reduces bias and conflict in an investigation. It also provides stakeholders with the confidence that the investigation will be conducted in an impartial and professional manner. In addition, in some cases, an internal investigator may have to question a colleague with more seniority or power. This can result in a compromised inquiry if the investigator is concerned about career growth or retaliation.
Are investigations protected by the attorney-client communications privilege?
How much does an investigation cost?
Aequitas Counsel provides an estimate of each investigation early in the process, prior to being retained. That cost is driven by the number of complainants, the complexity of the allegations, the span of time covered and witnesses involved. Investigations are billed on an hourly rate.
While there are some investigations that can be resolved for less than $5,000, and even fewer that cost over $40,000; the majority of investigations cost between $5,000 and $25,000. Again, the primary drivers of cost are the number of complainants and witnesses, volume of documents and the span of time the alleged misconduct involved.
How long does an investigation take?
Most investigations can be conducted within 5 to 10 days. Once the interviews are completed and documents are analyzed, it typically takes another 5 business days to prepare the written findings. Oftentimes, we are able to start an investigation the day we are contacted.