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Mastering Challenging Investigation Interview Subjects - Webinar with Bill Nolan
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Mastering Challenging Investigation Interview Subjects - Webinar with Bill Nolan

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Bill Nolan shares tips for dealing with difficult subjects during investigation interviews.

Bill Nolan shares tips for dealing with difficult subjects during investigation interviews.

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  • 1. Mastering Challenging Investigation Interview Subjects William A. Nolan, Barnes & Thornburg LLP
  • 2. Presenter bio Bill Nolan is the Managing Partner of Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Ohio office, which he opened in 2009, and a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Department. Bill works to bring attentiveness and clarity to bear on employment, contract, and other disputes, and helps clients build teams, policies and processes to minimize the frequency and severity of disputes. He frequently counsels clients on workplace harassment complaints and investigations, wage and hour compliance, and lawful discipline and terminations. He also conducts manager and workplace training to ensure legal compliance on the front lines.
  • 3. Game Plan • Premise: We keep seeing the same people! • Who are they? The Witness Files. • Review investigation objectives generally • Look at some specific examples • Takeaways
  • 4. Challenges: Alleged Wrongdoers • Clueless yet compliant • High risk harasser • Master manipulator
  • 5. Challenges: Complainants • Poor performer • Questionable • Counseled for performance • Parting shot
  • 6. Challenges: Other Players • Squeamish supervisor • Reluctant innocent bystander • Gossipy witness
  • 7. Here they are on the web … http://i-sight.com/author/bill-nolan/
  • 8. Investigation Objectives • Gather facts • Respond accordingly – Consequences for past conduct – Optimize future conduct • Towards complainant • Towards others: you are on notice • All of which: minimize liability to all parties
  • 9. Parting Shot Complainant • Complaint made on the way out • Exit could be voluntary or involuntary • Assume: no prior notification • Assume: not related to reason for exit
  • 10. Poll Question The parting shot complainant is gone. Do we have to investigate?
  • 11. Parting Shot Complainant • Review objectives: most still apply – Liability towards complainant less … but possible – No less so towards other employees
  • 12. Poll Question Should you put the brakes on the resignation or termination?
  • 13. Parting Shot Complainant • Put it on hold? – “case by case” – Factors tending towards putting it on hold • Connection between conduct and departure • More severe conduct
  • 14. Parting Shot Complainant • Communicating with complainant – Lost your ability to compel cooperation – Document efforts to do so • Follow up with the complainant? – Usually yes with current employees – Here: maybe if sense that complainant may be litigious
  • 15. High Risk Harasser • Mary accuses Harry and Hank of inappropriate comments • Hank: co-worker, African American • Harry: CEO, 2nd year of 5 year contract • Both are outraged – Hank: would be discrimination if he were disciplined – Harry: reputation at stake
  • 16. High Risk Harasser • Accused has to understand: company has to investigate – Doing so also protects innocent
  • 17. High Risk Harasser • Necessary steps – Clearly communicate to all: must investigate, no conclusions reached – Maximize confidentiality – Document reasons for action / inaction • All good practices, but this is where they matter most
  • 18. Squeamish supervisor • Marilyn and Jim are sales reps • Jim is a top producer • Marilyn’s 2nd complaint about Jim’s conduct • 3rd party confirmation so little question … • But supervisor Stan is adamant
  • 19. Squeamish supervisor • Action steps if Stan (and above) won’t act – Invoke threat of individual liability – Any ability to restructure work environment? – Make sure it is not perceived as retaliatory by Mary • 3rd party confirmation so little question … • But supervisor Stan is adamant
  • 20. Master manipulator • Mike: field engineer, 18 mos. with company • Vicky: part admin, part CSR, marginal performer • Mike is a “smart” harasser • Vicky fearful but finally complains • Mike denies it, and Vicky can’t prove it
  • 21. Master manipulator • The company’s predicament – Can’t conclude “harassment” – Vicky has “motive” – Work environment defies management
  • 22. Master manipulator • Things to consider – Hindsight but: background checks – Work environment also defies proof – More sophisticated investigation techniques? – Invest in another employee in the relationship
  • 23. Takeaways • The objectives almost never change – Gather facts as well as possible – Document that you are doing so • Challenging players are just different obstacles to manage around • Don’t let them distract you from the core objectives • Snowflakes
  • 24. REVIEW: Investigation Objectives • Gather facts • Respond accordingly – Consequences for past conduct – Optimize future conduct • Towards complainant • Towards others: you are on notice • All of which: minimize liability to all parties
  • 25. Thank-you for participating If you have any questions, please feel free to email them to: William A. Nolan, Office Managing Partner bill.nolan@btlaw.com Joe Gerard, Vice President Marketing and Sales j.gerard@i-sight.com