How much will an investigation cost?
One of the most frequent questions we are asked is: “How much will it cost?” We wish we could give a definite answer to this, but there are too many variables for that to be possible. We bill by the hour, not on a flat fee basis, and costs vary depending on the number and complexity of the issues, the number of witnesses to be interviewed, and the amount of documents that need to be reviewed.
We can give you an idea of what is typical for the investigations we do: While a small percentage bill out under $5,000 and an equally small number come in over $50,000, most investigations conducted by our office cost between $10,000 and $25,000. The more expensive investigations usually involve multiple complainants and/or respondents, multiple issues, and more documents than the smaller matters. We are committed to making the investigation as affordable as possible under the circumstances of the case.
How long will it take and how many people will be interviewed?
One of the things that distinguish a competent and experienced investigator from a novice is the ability to determine what needs to be investigated, what is superfluous, and how to get to the core issues efficiently. We call this “right sizing” the investigation. Our goal is to do everything necessary for a thorough investigation, but nothing more. Interviewing unnecessary witnesses is expensive – both in terms of what the investigator charges and also in terms of the impact in the workplace. We will efficiently analyze the allegations and evidence and avoid unnecessary financial and workplace impact.
Once our office is retained, we will have someone on site to start the investigation as soon as possible. When necessary, this could be the same day that we are retained. We will then proceed as quickly as practicable under the circumstances. Some investigations are wrapped up in a matter of days, while others may take a few months.
Why should I hire an external investigator instead of simply using someone inside my company to do it?
Many complaints can be investigated by a competent and experienced internal human resources professional. However, not all companies have such a person. Even if a qualified in-house person is available, it can be advisable to use an outside investigator if the complaint is by or against an individual with more authority than the internal investigator, if the internal investigator has any perceived or actual biases related to the complaint, or if other circumstances would make it difficult for an internal person to maintain objectivity or independence. As well, it is often a better practice to have an outside investigator handle complaints that will likely go to litigation.
Will I receive a written report of the investigation?
In nearly all of our investigations we produce a written report and, at the request of the client, will also prepare an executive summary of the investigation and findings. The report will set out the complaint, response, information gathered from witnesses and documents, and the findings, including the reasoning for the findings. Our findings are usually factual findings rather than legal or policy findings.
Does every workplace complaint necessitate an investigation?
No, not every complaint necessitates an investigation. One way we answer the question as to whether an investigation is necessary is by asking: “Are there allegations that, if true, would mean there was a violation of rules, laws, policies, important workplace expectations, or ethics?” If so, and if you don’t have enough information without an investigation to determine what has happened, someone needs to investigate. The investigation should tell the employer what has happened so that the employer can properly apply its rules to the situation at hand. Once it is determined whether allegations pertain to significant violations of rules or laws, the issues and scope of the investigation can be set.
Sometimes an employer is not sure whether a complaint by an employee needs to be investigated. We can help by doing an “intake” (also called an initial inquiry) rather than an investigation. The point of the intake is to conduct a thorough interview of the complainant and determine whether his or her complaints should go into the “management issues bucket” or the “EEO/ethics/serious misconduct bucket.” If it is the former, the case usually goes back to the employer to manage appropriately. If it is the latter, a full investigation ensues. Once the intake is completed (whether by our office or by internal HR), if it is concluded that there is to be an investigation, we like to frame the issues by first asking: What questions do you want answered by the investigation? Once those questions/issues are agreed to, we can go forward with a clearly understood scope, seeking the information needed to answer those questions.