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Internal Investigations: The Importance of Having an Attorney

Posted By: on Behalf of J. Kevin Stockstill, Attorney At Law // On:

Internal Investigation

Internal investigations are conducted by companies when they believe that some sort of misconduct has occurred within the company. Complaints of sexual harassment, other unlawful harassment, discrimination, retaliation, misuse of company property, illegal conduct, employee theft or fraud, or any other workplace misconduct can lead to internal investigations.

White collar crimes that could result in an internal investigation aren't as obviously committed, like shoplifting or driving under the influence, due to often obscure regulation in the workplace. Additionally, these investigations may not consider constitutional rights in their proceedings. In fact, this is highly dependent on whether you work in the public or private sector.

Public vs. Private Sector

If you are part of the public sector, you are employed by the government and, therefore, may have due process rights by state law. For example, if you exercise your right to refuse self-incriminating questioning, you cannot lose your job as a result. Additionally, public sector employees have the right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

If you are in the private sector, not working for the government, you are not protected by the same laws. In fact, there's no guarantee the company you work for will even have to follow their own guidelines. Additionally, there is no job security if you refuse to answer questions. Because of this, it is important to know when you can be represented, as this falls on the company's policies. If you are not allowed to have an attorney present during questioning, it is important to consult your lawyer beforehand to avoid self-incrimination. Any investigation can lead to criminal prosecution, so having an attorney guide you in every possible avenue is imperative.

It should be noted that internal investigations are usually held in good faith and seek to solve a problem. However, Human Resources departments and company attorneys main goals are to save the company, not you as an employee. Speaking with an attorney that has experience in this area, like Kevin Stockstill, as soon as an internal investigation begins may be your best option.

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