Remaining UMELI Questions!

Fran S.

Fran S.

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A few questions from the Upper Midwest Institute ended up on the bottom of my briefcase and were found only when repacking for a trip out of town.  My apologies, and here they are:

After much research and preparation, I was heavily criticized by Union counsel for asking open-ended questions to an employee about that employee’s conduct.  Union claimed that I baited the trap and “caused” the employee to get into bigger trouble — the employee lie about illegal conduct and was fired, primarily for illegal conduct, not the lies–GOOD OR NOT?

It sounds like counsel was unhappy with the outcome, but I disagree that asking open-ended questions is in any way improper.  Without beginning our inquiry with an opportunity for a witness to tell us THEIR story in THEIR words, we run a far greater risk of appearing to “put words in their mouths.”  If in response to an open-ended question, and employee truthfully and remorsefully “comes clean” with misconduct, it could actually end up with a more favorable disposition for the employee, so the open-ended question, in essence, cuts both ways.

Do you recommend specifying that employees cannot have an attorney present in your (checklist?)

I don’t include this is in my checklist.  Most employees don’t ask to have an attorney present, and if they do, I explain the company’s policy.

Does an intake form need to be kept in a separate file from the employee file or the supervisor form?

I recommend that supervisors keep intake forms in a file that is chronological.  Once a year, the forms should be archived according to organizational policy.

What are the qualities of a good investigator?

Here are some of my top ones:

  • Quick thinking

  • Be analytical but also intuitive

  • Extremely verbally facile

  • Good multitasker

  • Strong-willed and courageous

  • Adaptable

  • Be able to see the big picture as well as the details

  • Curious and inquisitive (aka nosey!)


Fran S.

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