What does an expert witness do in reviewing the employer’s handling of a workforce complaint?
Clients need to know what an expert witness does in the review of an employer’s handling of a workforce complaint. The complaint could be regarding discrimination, sexual harassment, misconduct, or retaliation, any of which could potentially lead to the accused’s termination. An expert who has the experience of conducting employment investigations will be able to assess if the employer’s handling of the workforce complaint, actions or omissions was satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Moreover, the review of reports, evidence, documents and asking the right questions is essential by the expert.
This checklist outlines the methodology I use from beginning to end to reach an expert witness opinion and is useful for litigators, plaintiffs, defendants, and risk management.
- Conduct the initial consultation with client.
- Client provides a summary of what happened and what they would like the expert to review.
- Receive and review all employer reports on the complaint(s).
- Generally, includes the initial complaint from Human Resources, the completed investigative report that contains statements from the victim, witnesses, accused, and investigator’s notes. The who, what, when, where, how, and why should be in the investigative report.
- Finding of Fact
Initiation of Pre-disciplinary Process (if finding of fact is sustained).
Response to Pre-disciplinary Action Letter by the accused employee.
Termination of Employment Letter (if employer is not influenced by employee’s response).
Receive and review all legal court documents filed by the plaintiff/defendant attorney(s).
Review all applicable federal and state laws.
Review all applicable personnel rules, policies, and procedures.
Receive and review evidence. This includes:
- Generally, the allegation results in a finding of sustained, not sustained, or unfounded with compelling reasons for the decision.
Receive and review all copies of digital/video recordings and transcripts.
- Emails, writings, text messages, voicemail, and all social media messages.
- Pictures of any physical injuries, property damage and where the incident occurred. Any other pictures that are relevant to showing guilt or innocence should be produced.
- Company and government property that is stolen, recovered, damaged, or relevant to the case.
- Other evidence includes any object or material that adds relevancy of the incident.
- This includes interviews and depositions of the victim, witnesses, investigator, management and accused.
The following questions will have a yes or no response from the expert’s review. If the review response detects an error or omission, it will be noted and discussed by the expert. The questions are #8 through #15.
Did the employer preserve and collect all evidence necessary for a complete investigation?
- Did the employer have a reasonable methodology to identify witnesses and gather relevant information?
- Did the employer follow investigative standards in conducting the interviews?
- Was there any bias detected in this investigation?
- Did the employer’s investigator commit any errors or omissions in this investigation that are not asked in this checklist?
- Were the findings of fact by the employer reasonably supported by the information that was obtained? Did they meet the preponderance criteria?
- Were all applicable policies and practices as to discipline followed?
- Was the discipline imposed justified and reasonable?
- Was the discipline consistent with past practices?
- Does the client request a written report on the expert witness opinion findings?
- This is discussed and agreed upon in the initial consultation and indicated in the agreement of services contract between the expert and client.
Aaron T. Olson, M.Ed., has decades of experience In Human Resources and Human Resources Training. Mr. Olson's company, A.T. Olson Consulting, LLC, is certified by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Verification and Evaluation (CVE) as a Verified Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB); and the State of Oregon's Certification Office for Business Inclusion and Diversity (COBID) as a Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (SDVBE) and Emerging Small Business (ESB).
Mr. Olson meets the criteria of an expert witness as outlined in the Federal Rules of Evidence. He also meets the criteria of an expert witness as outlined in the Oregon Revised Statutes. He has been deposed as an expert witness several times. Mr. Olson's services are available to attorneys representing plaintiff and defendant and include diagnostics, thorough reporting, depositions, arbitration hearings, and trial testimony as needed.
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