Legal Insights / Employment & Human Rights / How to Conduct a Workplace Investigation

How to Conduct a Workplace Investigation

Apr 1 2024

BC employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of all workers, including both physical and psychological safety. As part of this duty, employers are also required to have procedures around what to do if they receive a complaint. This page sets out some practical tips and suggestions for how to conduct an investigation, while it is also important that you follow the steps as set out in your policy and procedures.

For more about the requirement for a respectful workplace policy please click here.

Purpose Of a Workplace Investigation:

A workplace investigation is a formal process carried out by an organization or a third party to gather information and evidence regarding alleged misconduct, violations of company policies, or other issues within the workplace. These investigations are usually conducted in response to complaints, concerns raised by employees, or incidents that may have occurred. Ultimately, the goal of a workplace investigation is to gather relevant facts, assess the situation impartially, and take appropriate action to address any issues discovered.

Often workplace investigations are conducted by designated individuals within the organization, such as a supervisor, HR professional or external investigator, including a lawyer, for specialized cases. It is essential that investigations be conducted in an impartial and confidential manner.

When to Do a Workplace Investigation:

A workplace investigation should be conducted whenever there are allegations or suspicions of misconduct, violation of company policies, discrimination, harassment, or any other behaviour that could potentially harm an organization or its employees. It is crucial to initiate an investigation promptly after receiving a complaint or becoming aware of a potential issue to ensure a fair and thorough process. It is important to review any related HR policies an organization may have to ensure these are followed, as well as any procedures required under the Human Rights Code, Canada Labour Code and Workers Compensation Act, where applicable.


  • Pick a non-threatening place for the interview, such as an office or conference room.
  • Create a list of interview questions that you can choose from, depending on what direction the interview takes.
  • Put the witness at ease when they arrive and offer a glass of water/coffee.

Conducting Witness Interviews:

1. Introduction (all witnesses):

  • Explain the purpose of the meeting. For instance, “we are looking into concerns that have been expressed about Employee X” or “we have reason to suspect that…”
  • Explain that you are taking every allegation seriously and are committed to ensuring a healthy workplace.
  • Your role and overview of the process.
  • Ask the witness to keep the interview confidential.
  • Make clear no one will face repercussions for participating.
  • Obtain a list of all witnesses and documents that may be relevant.

2. Respondent (Employee X):

  • Give the opportunity to reply to allegations in a detailed and meaningful way.
  • Let Employee X explain their side of the story.

3. All Witnesses:

Take detailed notes when speaking with witnesses including:

  • Name of witness
  • Date of interview
  • Job title of witness;
  • Information imparted to the witness regarding confidentiality, retaliation, purpose of the investigation; and
  • Information relayed by the witnesses, such as names of other potential witnesses, identification of documents, date, etc.

Other tips:

  • Sign and date notes;
  • Record exactly what was said – do not include commentary or paraphrasing;
  • Make notes re demeanour;
  • Only share what details are necessary – do not share what other witnesses have said;
  • Avoid expressing your thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about the case or what the witness says; and
  • Practice self-awareness by identifying your own personal biases and putting them aside while conducting the interview.

4. Conclusion (all witnesses):

  • Ask if there is anything else I have not asked you about that you think I need to know.
  • Confirm details witness has provided.
  • Request any other documentary evidence – emails, texts, etc.

5. Difficult Witnesses:

  • Make clear you have a duty to inform of the allegations, are providing an opportunity to respond, and no decision has been made.
  • Make clear you will end the interview and proceed in absence of the evidence if necessary.


  • Begin by establishing a baseline by asking simple, easy to answer questions – such as, how long have you worked at the company?
  • Ask open-ended questions to get the witness to talk, such as: Tell me about your working relationship with Employee X?
  • Avoid loaded questions, such as: “Are you a tough supervisor?”
  • Avoid questions at the beginning that can be answered with a yes or no.
  • Do not ask accusatory questions that indicate you think the witness is guilty.
  • Ask simple questions that address one fact at a time, rather than combining more than one idea into the same question.

Things to Avoid:

  • Conducting group interviews.
  • Contaminating witnesses – providing the witness with information about the incident that was learned from prior witnesses or revealing information obtained from other witnesses before exhausting the information volunteered by this witness.
  • Making promises or threats.
  • Taking too long to start the investigation – reasonable timeline depends on the nature of the allegations but typically should be commenced as soon as reasonably practicable.
  • Taking no steps until the investigation is complete – safety concerns may require that one or more employees be placed on leave during the investigation.
Legal Guidance for INVESTIGATIONS:

It is generally advisable to involve a lawyer if you are undertaking an investigation, even if that is to get advice behind the scenes. Please reach out to our Litigation Intake Team at 778.666.3723 or by email to First we will need to confirm who the parties are and that we are able to represent you. Then we will set you up with a member of our Employment Law team who will be happy to assist.

If the allegations are of such a nature that it makes sense to bring in a third party, we are also able to conduct workplace investigations. These are typically where allegations involve senior team members and/or there are serious repercussions like termination or criminal charges that may result. The cost of this ranges significantly based on the number of witnesses involved, documentation that needs to be reviewed and type of report needed. The typical cost ranges from $5,000-$15,000 and subject to availability given the time-sensitivity involved.


Get in Touch


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