Witch Hunt By Insulting Investigator

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about suspension:

I have recently been suspended during an investigation which is basically a witch hunt. During this process the investigating officer has said insulting and derogatory things to me. What should I do?

Signed, Unjustly Accused

Dear Unjustly Accused:

You can take a couple of approaches. If the remarks or actions are ongoing, the next time the investigator says something offensive to you, stop the interview and ask to talk to a manager right then. Report what was said and say that you want to make a complaint about it. Or, the moment the interview is over, complain to a manager, in writing, about it. In either of those cases, you will want to be certain that a reasonable person would view you are correct to be offended. Examples of unprofessional or biased investigating: using obscenities, yelling, making remarks based on race or gender, calling you a liar, etc.

If the remarks of the investigator were in the past and he or she won’t be interviewing you again, you could write a letter to the section or unit in charge of the investigation and ask for a secondary investigation of the unprofessional conduct of the investigator. State the precise words and the way in which they were said.However, you may find you will need to wait until the investigation is complete before you are viewed as having credibility to make that complaint about past behavior.

The reality is that almost everyone who is being investigated is offended at the idea of being accused of wrong doing. If the investigator pushes a bit to get to the truth, it can easily be seen as unnecessary or over-zealous. It’s also true that even if someone knows they have done something wrong, they are likely to resent having an investigator pushing for answers and might complain just to deflect attention.

If you are cleared of wrongdoing, your complaint will have more credibility. If you are not cleared it is very doubtful you will be able to get a complaint to stick unless there were witnesses and the actions were extreme. That is another reality, I’m afraid. I hope you are correct that this investigation is a “witch hunt” without basis and that the truth will come to light. If you have any witnesses or evidence, make sure you provide every smidgen of information that can clear your name.

Sometimes employees wait and don’t contribute their own investigative leads. They should, instead, be certain that potential leads and information are given in writing to the investigator. Then, they should follow up to make sure the interviews took place or the evidence was examined. I hope you will do that if you have any information to offer in your defense. Best wishes to you as you work through this. It can be frightening, frustrating and angering. Try to keep your composure and let the truth speak for you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how this works out.

Tina Lewis Rowe