young girl receiving allegations

Informing the Respondent of Allegations

As a workplace investigator, I am often asked by the complainant or management if the respondent will be informed/will they know the details of the allegations that have been made against them prior to their (the respondent’s) interview?  The answer is always, “Yes.”.  The reasons why are:

Procedural Fairness

In order to be aligned with the concept of procedural fairness, if allegations are being formally investigated, the respondent must be provided with details of the allegations.  These details should clearly set out the alleged conduct and provide enough detail to reasonably enable the respondent to generate a response.

Impartiality

Often there is a fear that if the respondent is informed of the allegations, this will allow them time prior to their interview to “cook up” a story in their defence.  This train of thought presents a problem in that it assumes the respondent is guilty and they NEED to cook up a story in order to hide what actually occurred.  This approach and assumption of guilt are problematic in terms of the fact that it lacks impartiality.

Before informing the respondent of the allegations against them, I always check the organization’s policy.  Often, there are guidelines within a company policy that:

  • outline when to inform the respondent of what they have been accused of
  • how much information regarding the allegations should be released to them.

In the event that the policy does not dictate this, I recommend that when informing the respondent of the allegations against them, the following is shared in a reasonable timeframe prior to their interview:

  • Dates of the allegation(s)
  • Timelines regarding the allegation(s)
  • Specific comments made by the complainant and/or witnesses
  • Documentary or electronic evidence supporting the allegation(s)

In order for an investigation to be procedurally fair, the respondent must be informed of the details of the allegations against them.  Dawn Hillrud is trained in advanced workplace investigation techniques.  For more information email Dawn at dawn@knahr.ca or visit our webpage at www.knahr.ca

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