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When a workplace investigation unfolds, it’s crucial to be aware of the rights you hold as an employee. Whether you work for a public entity, are part of a union, or are covered under an employment contract, there are certain protections in place to ensure that the investigation is conducted fairly and within legal boundaries.

If you believe your rights have been impacted, contact PLBH at (800) 435-7542 for a legal consultation with an employment law attorney.

Rights Under Employment Contract

Your first line of defense during a workplace investigation is your employment contract or the employee handbook. These documents typically outline the procedures for conducting an internal investigation. Common stipulations include the opportunity for you to present your side, impartiality of the decision-makers, access to the evidence used in the investigation, protection from unwarranted disciplinary actions, and the prompt execution of the investigation. Some employers may also grant the right to legal representation during these proceedings.

Legal Rights in an Internal Investigation

Beyond the contract, you are safeguarded by state and federal laws that prevent:

  • Retaliation for reporting misconduct or participating in legal proceedings related to employment disputes.
  • Discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
  • Wrongful termination that violates federal laws or the terms of your employment contract.
  • Workplace harassment that creates a hostile work environment.

These laws are designed to prevent your employer from initiating an investigation with ulterior motives, such as penalizing you for whistleblowing or requesting disability accommodations.

Employer Limitations During an Investigation

Throughout an internal investigation, there are clear boundaries that your employer cannot cross without potentially facing legal consequences. These include, but are not limited to, violating your privacy rights through unauthorized searches of personal property, unlawful recording of conversations, and inappropriate monitoring of workplace activity.

While many employment contracts grant employers broad surveillance rights within the workplace, they are still required to respect the limits set by these contracts and state privacy laws.

Triggers for Workplace Investigations

An investigation can be initiated for various reasons, ranging from allegations of harassment or discrimination to suspected policy breaches or fraudulent activities. Such investigations typically begin following a complaint to human resources, a supervisor’s report, or findings from a company audit.

If you find yourself the subject of a workplace investigation, it is often an indicator that the process is in its advanced stages, with significant evidence already collected.

Taking Action: Can You Sue?

If you believe that your rights were violated during a workplace investigation, you may have grounds for legal action. Potential lawsuits can include wrongful termination if you were dismissed without proper cause or adherence to company policy, retaliation if the investigation was a response to your engagement in protected activities, or defamation if false allegations were made against you.

The Importance of Legal Assistance

In such intricate and sensitive matters, having expert legal assistance is paramount. An employment law attorney can provide counsel, help identify any procedural missteps, and advise on the best course of action if your rights have been infringed upon. If you suspect any misconduct or rights violations in the course of a workplace investigation, reach out to PLBH at (800) 435-7542 to discuss your case and explore your legal options.