How to handle employee misconduct incidents
Every professional organization wants to create a workplace that is energized yet controlled, motivated yet ethical, serious yet lighthearted. In some work environments, these unspoken tenets challenge certain employees. The typical behavior that one might expect of an employed, responsible adult is not always present. While people are entitled to good and bad days, there are some employee problems that are deep-rooted and difficult to overcome, particularly if an employee denies behaving improperly or the company has difficulties proving their inappropriate or illegal conduct. When these types of problems arise, you need a trusted resource to properly handle your employee misconduct investigations.
The issues in play where employee misconduct is concerned are about more than missing ink pens or post-it notes. Significant office transgressions such as harassment or bullying, aggressive behavior, payroll abuse, asset misuse, gross insubordination, substance abuse, mistreatment of equipment, and more – have the potential to become disruptive liabilities. Highly charged employee misconduct cases require tact, discretion, and subtlety during an investigation so that workplace efficiency is maintained and tensions minimized while an urgent and weighty matter is explored.
Why You Should Outsource Your Employee Misconduct Investigations
A professionally conducted employee misconduct investigations is particularly beneficial in situations where difficult or unorthodox misconduct circumstances are transpiring. By working with a professional investigative agency, you unburden your human resources department from needing to develop an understanding of noncompliance issues, as well as reduce any further stress that witnesses and victims may experience. Most notably, the use of a professional investigator means the investigation is carried out in a timely manner and remains objective and unbiased.
For those employees who are privy to the fact that investigation duties are being outsourced – or who know that an investigation is being conducted at all – this choice sends a positive message that the organization take the matters at hand seriously. Utilizing a surveillance expert also makes it clear that the organization desires the employee misconduct investigations to be handled impartially, and removes any perception of favoritism or biases associated with having a company employee conduct the investigation.
By hiring a seasoned professional investigator, the organization also realizes the benefit of experienced specialists who regularly conduct comprehensive employee misconduct investigations and understand the details and legalities essential to managing this kind of scrutiny. Several common matters that arise in employee misconduct situations are:
Harassment in the workplace can take various forms. Whether verbal, sexual, or physical harassment, every employee who is accused of or suspected of wrongdoing must be thoroughly investigated. While your company may already have policies and preventive measures in place to prevent or address harassment, the type of issue on the table will influence how an investigation is conducted. What is the nature of the harassment? Is it occurring between two or more employees? Is it occurring between an employee and a customer or client? Is the harassment happening off-site or on-site? Typical forms of harassment include:
- Sexual harassment: A hostile work environment can be created when one employee makes unwanted comments about another employee’s appearance, tells offensive or off-color jokes or stories, circulates obscene photos, presents an employee with sexual objects, or asks about an employee’s sex life.
- Physical harassment: The are about 2 million assaults and threats of violence against employees in the workplace every year. Assault – whether aggravated assault, rape, or sexual assault – is the most common type of physical harassment. The third-leading cause of fatal occupational injury is homicide.
- Threats or intimidation: Threats alone can be enough to be considered harassment, and employers who neglect to investigate these situations can be liable for whatever consequences may occur. It is the responsibility of an employer to maintain a safe work environment for all employees.
- Verbal harassment: Being a tough manager or boss is one thing. Verbally harassing subordinates or peers is another situation entirely, and one that is unacceptable. Verbally attacking an employee, customer, or colleague can easily develop into physical harassment. Additionally, verbal harassment can be disruptive or distracting to more than just the coworkers in question.
In harassment cases, it will be necessary for the investigator to interview the complainant, the alleged employee who is doing the harassing, and witnesses. An experienced investigator is equipped to handle such a sensitive matter and adept at extracting information from all parties involved.
Employee Time Theft
Texting, emailing, surfing the web, all of these habits are a recurring distraction that takes away from the work an employee should be doing. While these vices can prove to be costly over time, significant employee misconduct in the form of employee time theft is a larger problem that is harder to prove. It’s challenging to monitor an employee’s behavior when they’re off-site. When a person works from home or has a position that takes them out of the office most of the time and far away from direct supervision, their unchecked time can turn into idle and personal time. From shopping to sleeping to working another job during what is supposed to be their work time with you, employee misconduct in the form of time theft can be costly.
The experience and skills of a professional investigator enable an employer and company to gather the necessary evidence of employee time theft in order to have grounds for termination and possible prosecution. Taking the steps to investigate alleged employee time theft is also an action that helps deter all workers from abusing the freedoms you provide them as your employees.
Even when your organization has completed due diligence and hired the best people possible, employee asset misuse can still occur, and it can take several different forms:
- Using company funds for personal expenses
- Using the company car for personal recreation
- Accepting gratuities from clients in exchange for services, benefits, or special treatment
- Conducting competing business transactions using the company’s facility and equipment
Employee misconduct in the form of asset misuse can happen with direct employees or contractors, and the occurrence can threaten the integrity and prosperity of your organization. While maintaining constant surveillance of all your employees to ward off employee asset misuse is costly and daunting, outsourcing a suspected employee misconduct situation to a professional investigative firm unveils the offenders while showing all employees that there is a zero-tolerance policy for asset misuse.
Payroll abuse exists mainly in the form of falsified wages. An employee might claim compensation for hours they have not worked or alter their time cards or time sheets. But when payroll abuse is suspected at the source of payroll – in your accounting or payroll department – your company’s financial liability runs deep. These employees are able to alter their own pay or hours worked, or the hours or pay of any employee, to reflect a higher sum. Payroll employees may even have an opportunity to pay themselves a bonus.
There are also commission schemes that directly benefit employees by increasing their wages. Ghost employees may be created so that wages can be given to a nonexistent person while another employee actually benefits. Workers’ compensation fraud occurs when an employee claims false injuries at work and seek to gain financially.
When you suspect payroll fraud or payroll abuse within your organization, it is essential to seek the assistance of experts who can identify the exact source of the abuse and theft.
Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and even tobacco use can be grounds for dismissal in some organizations. An employee’s substance abuse problem has the power to impact your bottom line and the reputation of your company, while also preventing the employee from properly doing the job they have been hired to do. Even if it seems as though your employee is arriving at work intoxicated, high, or otherwise – or you suspect that they are indulging their substance abuse while on the job – proving this reality is not always simple.
A professional investigator is able to do the tedious work that you do not have time to do – monitor the behavior of your employee to determine just what he or she is doing, on the clock or off the clock, that could be impacting their performance at work and, therefore, impacting the success of your company as well as their fellow employees.
Insubordination is not always obvious – an employee may be perfectly kind, agreeable, docile, and obedient in person with their employer or manager, then go off and blatantly refuse to follow direct orders. Insubordination can take many forms, and in some instances what may seem like insubordination could merely be a misunderstanding. It’s for the professional investigator to determine whether the alleged insubordination occurred willfully or accidentally, once or repeatedly, and whether there are extenuating circumstances that caused an employee to be insubordinate or feel they couldn’t follow orders.
You don’t want to mishandle an insubordination case. Neglecting to take a matter like insubordination seriously and deal with it head-on is a recipe for creating a toxic work environment that affects all employees.
Why Hire Bawn?
Our investigative team is comprised of a wide variety of subject matter experts when it comes to specific investigations in relation to employee misconduct. We have a dedicated team experts that utilizes innovative and modern surveillance equipment to monitor activities as well as document the arrival and departure patterns of employees as they travel from a location or job site. Our experts also conduct detailed, thorough, and insightful background checks as part of our employee misconduct investigations.
If you are facing a sensitive employee misconduct situation, we encourage you to contact Bawn to discuss our services in detail. Don’t allow your brand, credibility, reputation, or bottom line to be tarnished by employee misconduct.