Laws Impose an Affirmative Obligation to Investigate

There are various laws and statutes that create a duty to investigate by the employer when a claim has been made by an employee. These laws include:

Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination Laws impose an affirmative duty to investigate and take prompt remedial action when complaints of harassment are raised.Employers risk liability if allegations are made, nothing is done, and further harm results. Liability, in many instances, can be avoided if the employer demonstrates that it accomplished an immediate and complete investigation followed by immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Health and Safety Laws in the workplace, under both federal and state law, also impose an affirmative duty on employers to investigate potential safety and health hazards.For example, federal OSHA requires a general duty upon employers to maintain a safe workplace and to protect employees from workplace violence.

The Drug Free Workplace Act requires employees with government contracts to provide drug free work environment. This obligation includes a duty on employers to investigate and eliminate drug use in the workplace.

As a result of lawsuits alleging Negligent Hiring, Supervision and Retention of Employees, background investigations of applicants and employees are important to avoid liability.This is especially true in light of workplace violence claims.

In addition to these specific laws, an employer, usually through its human resource professional, has a general duty or interest in investigating allegations and claims that include theft, drug use, discrimination, threats, assaults, and harassment. Failure to take prompt action in response to reports of such activity can lead to increased exposure to liability if it is later shown that an act, omission, or other harm could have been avoided if a prior complaint had been investigated.

For questions regarding an allegation or claim, contact a member of Barrett McNagny’s Labor and Employment Group. 

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