To Share or Not to Share

The investigation is done and the report detailing the findings of the investigation is ready for dissemination. The question that always seems to pop-up is: do we share the report with the complainant and/or the respondent? After all, this whole investigation is about them so shouldn’t they get to see the report?

The answer is, ‘it depends’. Some organizations have a policy that explicitly states that parties will receive a copy of the report. If that is the case, the next step is clear, and the report must be shared. But what if your policy is silent on this point?

In an effort to hide the report’s findings, some organizations attempt to claim the material to be ‘privileged’ information and take steps to avoid providing the parties with a copy of the report. This knee-jerk reaction is common, and often turns out to be the proper course of action, but to reach this conclusion an organization needs to consider broader implications regarding the disclosure of the report.

Consider this:

Is it helpful? There may be times when it would be helpful to share the report with the parties. It enhances transparency, and it shows to them the seriousness with which this process was undertaken. This can also help parties better understand the outcomes of the process, which in-turn could help promote reconciliation when possible.

Is it too much disclosure? There may be time when providing the entirety of the report is too much disclosure. For example, if the report contains witness evidence that when disclosed could negatively impact relationships at work, then it might actually be counter to moving forward. Or perhaps disclosure will reveal too much confidential/sensitive information to be shared amongst the parties.

In those situations, there are other options available to the organization. One possibility is offering a redacted version of the report. Another would be to provide a summary of the report while stripping out any confidential information.

Regardless of which disclosure method you take, it is always important to explain to the parties why a report is being presented in this manner, and to be clear regarding the findings the report contains. The important thing to remember is that not sharing any information with the parties is not an option. It is a matter of basic fairness and legal best practice to advise the parties on the outcome of the investigation.

Your Engaged Assignment: Do you have an investigation report that you are sitting on? Maybe it is time to consider sharing information in an appropriate manner. Need some help with this? We are here for you!