Best Practices for Interviewing the Complainant
- Interview the Complainant as soon as possible after starting an investigation and after you have gathered relevant documents.
- Reassure Complaint that the interview is their opportunity to provide any information they think is relevant to the complaint.
- Recognize that the interview may trigger trauma for the Complainant. Use trauma-informed interviewing techniques to reduce that impact on the Complainant.
- Ask all relevant questions but let the Complainant tell their story in whatever order comes naturally.
- Explain to the Complainant that any questions you ask about their allegations are to enable you to gather as much information as possible and conduct a thorough investigation and are not intended to trip them up or upset them.
- Convey your impartiality through your tone of voice and demeanor.
- Do not be afraid to be empathetic to the Complainant in the interview. It does not impact your impartiality.
- Allow the Complainant the opportunity to contact you after the interview if they have additional information.
- Keep the Complainant informed of the status of the investigation.
Best Practices for Interviewing the Respondent
- Interview Respondent after you have interviewed the Complainant and all witnesses. This ensures you have all allegations and information before questioning the Respondent.
- Reassure Respondent that you have not reached any conclusions as of the time of their interview. Convey your impartiality through your tone of voice and demeanor.
- Recognize that the Respondent may be defensive and may react negatively to the investigation and the interview. Don’t take it personally. Encourage the Respondent to answer your questions by explaining that you need the Respondent’s account to make a fair finding.
- Make sure the Respondent knows by the end of the interview all of the allegations against them.
- Ask open-ended, non-leading questions first. Then narrow questions to obtain responses to specific allegations against the Respondent. Ensure you have answers to all allegations.
- Allow the Respondent the opportunity to contact you with additional information.
Best Practices for Witness Interview
- Interview witnesses after the Complainant interview and before the Respondent interview, if possible.
- Reassure the witness that they are not under investigation and that you want only to ask them about information they may have about issues you are investigating.
- Be prepared to address questions about retaliation. Assure the witness that the company will not tolerate retaliation and encourage the witness to report any concerns of retaliation to you.
- Avoid giving the witness too much information about the complaint and the parties. Explain to the witness that you cannot share details about the investigation to protect the privacy of the parties, just as you would if the witness was a party to an investigation.
- Do not ask leading questions, i.e., “You saw the Respondent grab the Complainant, didn’t you?” Start with broad questions, such as, “Did you say anything unusual at the company party” and narrow questions, i.e., “Did you see the Respondent grab the Complainant?”
- Allow the witness to contact you with additional information after the interview.