The impact of an HR scandal can compound when it is not handled properly, creating additional reputational and financial damage to an organization. This is why HR case management is such an important asset for enterprise HR teams. Using D3’s HR platform, you can put your investigations “on-rails”, so that investigators are guided through each step, ensuring procedural consistency, even during complex cases.
We recently released a solution guide that will give you a good overview of our HR Case Management product. We hope you’ll check it out over on our Resources page. In this blog post, we’ll look at a couple of examples of poorly handled investigations that cost companies significant amounts of money in damages—along with some regrettable headlines.
In 2014, Walmart paid an assistant manager $410,000 plus 20 weeks salary—even after the damages were reduced in an appeals court—because the company failed to adhere to its own workplace violence and harassment policies and did not properly investigate allegations of abuse made against a store manager. The complainant reported the abuse through the proper channels, but the report was leaked to the subject, resulting in even more belittling and demeaning verbal abuse. Walmart found the allegations to be unsubstantiated, and no disciplinary action was taken. The courts found the claims to be legitimate, due to Walmart’s failure to take the claim seriously, including ignoring of numerous firsthand accounts from witnesses. The initial damages were $1.45 million, before being reduced on appeal.
A 2011 case against Kraft provides an early example of how investigation procedures can fail to meet appropriate standards for fairness and thoroughness when not properly codified. A worker at a Kraft manufacturing plant brought forward a harassment complaint against four co-workers. The HR team interviewed four supervisors, some of whom had no connection to the people involved, but failed to speak to important parties like the subjects of the investigation and several likely witnesses. The investigator did not feel the case warranted the charge of harassment, and therefore did not bother to thoroughly look into the matter. The courts awarded the complainant a year’s salary plus legal costs, determining that Kraft had not conducted a serious and neutral investigation.
In 2012, Home Hardware was made to pay 24 months salary plus $75,000 to a distribution center employee, after he was the subject of a deeply biased sexual harassment investigation. One of the complainants’ fathers became involved in the investigation at head office, and participated in the decision to appoint a friend of his—who had no experience in sexual harassment cases—to investigate. The VP of HR was also a friend of the same complainant’s father, and he too became involved in the investigation. The subject of the investigation was not made aware of the reasons for his suspension, and was eventually terminated with cause, despite evidence that the complainants were retaliating against him for personal reasons. A jury initially awarded $500,000 in damages on top of the pay in lieu, but it was reduced on appeal to $75,000.
These cases are all at least a few years old, and both the volume of investigations and standards for completeness have both risen dramatically since then, particularly in the past year. The common pitfalls that these cases exemplify—e.g. biased investigations, noncompliance to policies, failing to conduct important interviews—can all be easily avoided by putting investigations “on-rails”. With D3, investigators have no choice but to follow the correct procedures, including the customized processes of their organization and the applicable regional requirements, which can vary greatly across countries and states.
To learn more about D3’s HR Case Management platform, read our brand-new solution guide. It’s a quick read that will give you bite-sized summaries of all the major features that can help you empower your HR team and avoid workplace misconduct.