Once an employer receives a report of alleged sexual harassment, discrimination and/or retaliation, the employer should promptly launch an investigation into the complaint. The Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) requires these investigations to be conducted even if the complaining person has filed a lawsuit. While a designated individual such as a Human Resource Director, Town Manager or School Superintendent may be able to perform the investigation, it is often advisable to retain an external, independent investigator to analyze the situation promptly and thoroughly in order to avoid possible internal conflicts, to prevent retaliatory actions and to help avoid future litigation.
As with employment claims of discrimination and harassment, schools must promptly investigate civil rights claims of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation involving students. The anti-bullying statute and regulations also require that schools quickly investigate claims of bullying directed against students, even if the claims are reported to the police or other authorities. While School Assistant Principals or other administrators may be able to conduct such investigations, again it is often advisable to have an external, independent investigator review the complaints, especially complex ones and/or ones that may implicate systemic issues within a district. Having successfully represented and advised school districts and families concerning Title IX, discrimination and bullying complaints, Judy is well-versed in conducting such investigations and advising school administrators and families about how to resolve these issues. Judy also is ATIXA-certified to conduct independent investigations of Title IX claims under the 2020 regulations, which require that the investigator and decision maker be different individuals.
Organizations seeking to fully understand and appropriately address allegations of serious wrongdoing, such as claims of sexual misconduct, workplace harassment, corruption and unlawful or unethical business practices, often need a third-party investigation characterized by robustness, sensitivity and integrity. Our approach brings clarity, candor and credibility to the assessment of challenging situations.
For example a Georgia Tech University student stated he was falsely accused of sexual assault. After a questionable investigation, he is expelled. Later, an appellate panel reversed the decision, but the expulsion is upheld by the university president. In another twist, the Board of Regents overturned the decision and the accused is allowed to return to the university.
A civil rights investigator makes a slanted report against three police officers. Discovery later reveals that the investigator is a friend of the accuser, and primarily framed the report to favor the accuser and discredit the police officers. There was little desire to understand the facts. Even after the “investigator” is disciplined and re-assigned for the obvious conflict and bias, he refused to believe he had done anything wrong.
Some organizations believe that the use of independent investigators may result in the exposure of their weaknesses and increase their liability, regardless of any signed confidentiality agreement. This and other fears should be re-examined. Sincerely question if you are concerned with learning facts or just limiting your dirty laundry. To the organization charged with handling a complaint, there can be a natural tendency to protect itself. When this occurs, bias can enter, details can be overlooked, justice may not be served and more harm can ensue.