More and more lawyers will be asked to investigate cases of psychological harassment at the workplace. What are the best practices in this area?
“The norm is changing, and expectations in human relationships are also changing: behaviours may be better identified, recognized and reported more than before,” explains Élise Corriveau, CHRP and accredited mediator for the Dialogue firm. In particular, she sat on the revision of the Code of Conduct for Harassment Investigators for the Ordre des CRHA.
Although investigation of psychological harassment in the workplace is not a practice reserved for lawyers, best practices in the subject are shared both by the Bar and the Ordre des CRHA.
Good knowledge of the process
The investigator must first demonstrate his expertise through a knowledge of investigative procedures and jurisprudence, as well as his understanding of workplace harassment and disputes.
“Each case has its own complexities and difficulties,” Élise Corriveau indicates. “The investigator always has to remain vigilant and not be complacent in a case that he perceives as being less complex than another.”
Trust and fairness
The context in which the investigator is working will of course be tricky, due to the nature of the allegations, and his human qualities will play an important role in the process. “A competent and skilled investigator is able to get people to understand their rights and obligations in relation to the process, while trying to make it human.”
Empathy and fairness are therefore essential, the mediator says, as is building a climate of trust, both towards the individual conducting the investigation and to the process itself.
Flexibility is another essential quality, allowing the investigator to adapt to different situations and individuals being interviewed. “Sometimes the person will reveal things that the investigator was not expecting. He must be able to pounce on that and be flexible to be able to adapt his interviews.”
The report as a reflection of the evidence
The quality of the report depends on the quality of the evidence collected. As an investigator, “this requires being able not only to collect evidence in the right way, but also being able to analyze it well.”
Neutrality above all
The report must be written objectively, of course! “The investigator must avoid expressing opinions,” warns Élise Corriveau, “since the conclusions must be based solely on the evidence.”