When a need for an investigation arises, one of the first issues that must be decided by the employer is whether the investigation will be conducted by an internal investigator (i.e. an employee of the organization – often times human resources personnel or, in some cases, in-house legal counsel) or whether an external third-party investigator will be retained.

Consider these guidelines when attempting to decide whether an internal or external investigator needs to be required:

  • Possibility of bias or perception of bias
  • Internal investigator is not sufficiently experienced
  • Internal investigator is unable to give investigation timely or full attention
  • The allegations are very serious
  • There are multiple locations, complainants or respondents
  • The parties are represented by counsel or a union
  • The allegation involves delicate or difficult subject-matter
  • The parties are highly-placed or high-profile within the organization
  • The complaint arises in the department in which the internal investigator(s) works or involves someone who the internal investigator(s) knows well
  • There is a high likelihood of legal challenge.


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