Employee misconduct investigations have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic in an unprecedented way. The coronavirus restrictions are different in many states, with many businesses still operating most positions in a remote capacity. In correlation with this wave of remote working, there has also been a wave of interest from employers in hiring a private investigator to spy on their employees while they work from home.
Anyone in business knows that due-diligence is the cornerstone of good practice. A proper level of oversight on behalf of leadership reduces the odds of pervasive issues falling between the cracks in the system and ensuring that problems within the organization are handled swiftly and efficiently. It also demonstrates for the workforce that leadership is engaged with the internal issues of a corporation and is invested in creating a better work environment for their employees. However, there is a threshold where oversight becomes disruptive and unnecessary, and has the potential to further disturb the bottom line.
Private investigators across the globe are seeing an increase in employee misconduct investigations. A private investigator based in Manchester, England, told the Daily Mail recently, “That was a type of work you never really got prior to lockdown. Now we see a lot of enquiries. It is quite prevalent. We get employers using us for surveillance to confirm that people are actually working and not going out of the house.” Employers are feeling understandably uneasy about the prospect of employees working from home without direct supervision. Many employers have transitioned to software that tracks an employee’s production level, or spies on their home computer activity while working. Others are taking it a step further and hiring private investigators to monitor employees while they work from home. For example, an employee might express distress over going out in public during the pandemic, but then be seen out and about.
Private investigators have a skillset that is ideal for this type of surveillance and documentation. However, the overuse of private investigators to police the behavior of employees can also have a detrimental effect on the workforce, particularly if employee malingering is isolated and not rampant within the organization. What it comes down to is a question of reasonable suspicion. A reasonable suspicion constitutes evidence to a reasonable degree that an employee is malingering on company time. When heavy employee misconduct investigations are instituted by leadership on such a wide scale, there is an err of distrust between employer and employee. The employee may decided that if they are not worth their employer’s trust, they might disengage from their job. They might be even more inclined to steal from the employer despite the knowledge that they are under surveillance. That air of distrust between employer and employee can rot the company culture from within, leading to lower returns and higher costs in turnover and training.
The bottom line is that leadership should trust their employees until they give you a reasonable suspicion not to. When that happens, leadership should definitely reach out to private investigators for employee misconduct investigations to get important clarification on their corporate crises.
Is there a way to stamp out employee malingering? The answer
Employee malingering is becoming a problem for some employers. As some states move forward with plans to open their states back up during the global COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking forward to life returning to some semblance of normalcy. While businesses make plans to reopen their doors, there are others that will keep the bulk of their operations remote with employees working from home in order to mitigate the spread of the disease. While many employers feel this precaution is still prudent, there is the additional layer of anxiety about whether employees are keeping their noses to the grindstone, or malingering.
Obviously, these are strange times. A majority of businesses
in the United States were forced to shut down direct business to customer
operations in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Employees who were
not furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19 have been forced to adjust to a new
working life devoid of work-life balance—their work is literally in the home—complete
with the distraction of children, family, pets, spouses, and other household
distractions. It is a stressful time, and it can be difficult to maintain focus.
Corporations and organizations should always prioritize their employee’s mental
health for the sake of their corporate culture. These predictable challenges
with suddenly working from home should not be considered employee malingering. However,
willful malingering can lay huge blows to daily productivity and ultimately
profits. Employers must have a way to verify whether or not their employees are
Under more normal, stable circumstances, employers have the
benefit of face to face interaction for determining how engaged and productive
their employees are. In addition to output, supervisors can note how many
breaks they take, the quality of the work, and the level of communication from the
employee, both on and offline. However, remote working has made detecting
employee malingering almost impossible.
Telecommunication technology has played a vital role in facilitating
the continuation of the economy despite the quarantine. Meetings are held over Zoom,
employee time is tracked through invoices or through an online time clock of
sorts that allows employees to log their time worked and have their timesheets
stored on a cloud server. Short of a live camera feed that documents the
employee in front of the computer or on the phone, is there truly a way to
verify if they are actually working?
The idea of hiring a private investigator to surveil your
employees may sound strange or even wrong, but it’s a highly common business
practice that legally exposes the drain an individual employee might be having
on your company. Private investigators can track an employee’s movements during
the time they have invoiced or logged, ensuring that any errands outside the
home are work-related and have some value to the corporation. Private
investigators can document these movements with GPS trackers placed under their
car, photographing their activities in public to either prove or disprove
employee malingering. Private investigators are trained to blend in with their
surroundings, and conduct surveillance discretely to prevent their cover from
being blown, so in the event that no employee malingering is found, no one is
If you suspect your employee is malingering on your dime, reach out to Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our surveillance services. Call us at 317-951-1100, or visit our website at lauthinvestigations.com
With the current outbreak of COVID-19 keeping many employees at home, corporations in the midst of internal overhaul are feeling the drag. Investigations that could improve a corporation from within could be on hold, or being conducted by an internal investigator to mitigate the complications of the stay-at-home order. An internal investigation can often be the sharpest of double-edged swords in the business world. From employee theft to executive misconduct, internal investigations can often be the most attractive option for management and C-level executives. Internal investigations provide the investigating company with enough control over the situations to make crucial in-house decisions, overhaul faulty processes, and improve the quality of life of their organization, all while flying under the radar of public scrutiny. However, the obvious inherent issue with an internal investigation is an implicit level of bias that can have devastating consequences.
The idea of implicit bias within a corporation is usually brought up with regards to their diversity and how the lack of it creates blind spots within leadership. However, implicit bias can be the poison that rots an investigation from the inside out. There are innumerable factors that can influence a person’s inherent bias, like interactions with others, personal experiences, or exposure to external stimuli that can change a person’s beliefs. These factors are exacerbated when the investigator in question is part of the corporation or organization being investigation.
When an investigation is handled internally, leadership can obviously trust the investigator to conduct their fact-finding missions swiftly and discreetly with the best interests of the company in mind, but this comes at a cost, and that cost is internal bias.Internal investigators already have the bias of experience and personal belief as human beings. On top of that, you can add the inherent bias of being a part of the organization they are investigating. Internal investigations can have a myriad of consequences, the most extreme of which would be the dissolution of the corporation. That factor alone—the preservation of one’s job—is one of the strongest motivations for skewing results of an internal investigation in the corporation’s favor. When the investigator has a direct or indirect stake in the preservation of the corporation, the investigation can never be objective—leads will go unpursued, testimony uncorroborated, and important facts might be excluded from the findings of the investigation. This level of bias is something that many companies simply cannot afford.
Appointing an internal investigator to handle pervasive issues may sound like good money sense that also provides a layer of protection for the corporation, but the consequential costs of such an investigation can be astronomical. Internal bias can set an investigation back for weeks, leading to more lost productivity and profits. First and foremost, a faulty internal investigation can have litigious consequences that leadership might not foresee. For example, an internal investigation that results in the termination of an employee can result in a wrongful termination lawsuit on behalf of the former employee. If the investigation is subsequently found to be biased, the court could award the former employee with damages as part of a settlement, which can have devastating financial repercussions for the corporation or organization.
One of the worst parts of internal investigations is that the repercussions can end in the investigation being a huge waste of time and money for a corporation—like in the wrongful termination suit against IBM in 2013. An internal investigation into the employee’s misconduct resulted in that employee being terminated, and when the suit was brought to court, IBM wanted to show the court that they had conducted a fair investigation. The findings of IBM’s internal investigation were precluded from trial because it was determined by the court that the investigation was in fact biased. The court found that the internal investigator did not interview witnesses who might have supported the employee’s version of events. This resulted in countless of useless hours processed through payroll, not to mention the waste of resources and loss of productivity that consequently occurred. This is why if your corporation is considering conducting an internal investigation, it is a solid investment to hire an independent investigator before initiating an investigation.
Hiring a private investigator may seem like an unconventional way to approach an internal investigation. After all, how are you supposed to willingly invite an investigator who is a stranger to your organization and trust them to give you the best recommendations to improve it from within? Regardless of which private or independent investigator you hire, there is always one thing your money guarantees, and that’s objectivity. Unlike the aforementioned IBM case in which the internal investigation was precluded from trial due to bias, independent investigators are exactly that—independent, and their objectivity comes with a much higher threshold of bias and scrutiny. This means money spent on an investigation now won’t be for nothing when consequential litigation comes up on the docket.
Because private investigators are independent from the organization, their findings and testimony come with a higher degree of integrity. Private investigators have no direct or indirect stake in the outcome of an independent investigation, so their factual findings are not clouded by office politics or industry bias. They only have their verified resources and a toolbox of experience that allows them to gather evidence and follow leads internal investigators might not have considered or ignored. Internal bias can derail an investigation from the beginning, and it’s important to have an independent set of eyes in order to prevent lost productivity and manhours.
Furthermore, having an independent investigator like one of the quality private investigators with Lauth Investigations International, you know that you can trust the results of any investigation are free of internal bias. It is the source of intelligence that has the power to improve any corporation or organization from within—resolving pervasive issues within the workplace that contribute to drop in employee morale & engagement, productivity, and profits. Call Lauth Investigations International today to get a free consultation on our corporate culture audit and corporate intelligence services.
Essential Employees See Decline in Corporate Culture
In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, many states are currently living under lockdown, with Indiana in particular abiding by Governor Holcomb’s ‘stay-at-home order’. Residents are ordered to stay at home unless making essential trips for things like groceries, medical supplies, or reporting to essential jobs for essential tasks—all in the pursuit of reducing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. However, working persons across the nation are finding themselves in conflict with their employers regarding their compliance level with their state’s level of travel restrictions during the pandemic—landing some companies in hot water with their employees who have come forward citing a toxic corporate culture that some describe as choosing “profits over people.”
While the world watched China and Italy deal with devastating consequences of COVID-19, other countries like the United States struggled with how to respond. The Trump administration is currently facing criticism for the general handling of the pandemic with the consequences being felt across the nation. The homogenized body of information flowing from various sources, the compliance climate surrounding lockdowns has some businesses demonstrating their lack of understanding of what constitutes an “essential” job or business.
Media outlets of all shapes and kinds are publishing lists of essential jobs and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The list is much longer than many may think, with 35 different businesses and organizations deemed essential, from exterminators to funeral homes. One of the business types not on that list is recreational retail—businesses like GameStop, which sells video games, electronics, and gaming merchandise. Even after many states started initiating lockdowns, GameStop stores remained open, exposing employees and consumers alike to one another in reckless disregard for COVID-19 precautions. At the end of March, a former employee wrote an op-ed for Vice, detailing their declining relationship with the company over seven years, culminating with their departure after GameStop made the choice to keep stores open during the pandemic. Under the pseudonym “CT Collins”, the former employee described a corporate culture that was slowly deteriorating, “As corporate continued to increase expectations, associates began to lose motivation altogether. Since holidays alone, my store saw increased expectations in every metric we were tracked on, despite January and February being extraordinarily slow months…This despite the fact that our store had struggled to meet the previous targets, and our new game sales were nearly halved from the previous year.” Ahead of the highly-anticipated release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, GameStop certainly had an opportunity to recoup lost profits by remaining open during the launch of the popular life-simulator.
GameStop’s difficulty with the definition of “essential” has unflattering optics that demonstrate a level of indifference to their employees with regards to whether or not their contact with customers and each other can contribute to the rising epidemic of COVID-19. The op-ed by CT Collins already documented a declining corporate culture in which employees were trapped in a cycle of disengagement and apathy as a direct result of corporate expectations. Following the outcry from the employees, the decision was finally made to close GameStop stores in compliance with what has become known as “flattening the curve.” We can only hope that other businesses begin to revaluate how much of their daily operations can be conducted in the cloud—allowing employees to work from home and telecommute with the use of technology and business-to-business platforms.
GameStop is not the only retail giant getting bad press. Amazon has come under fire as a documented history of corporate culture issues, including an infamous incident in late 2019 in which an Amazon fulfillment associate died of cardiac arrest while on the warehouse floor and their fellow employees were told to “go back to work.” Now, an Amazon worker, Chris Smalls, has been fired for protesting the unsafe working conditions in the Staten Island warehouse where he works—one of the busiest in the nation. Given that millions now depend on delivery to get essential items, it’s not a surprise that Amazon is struggling, but employees are making their voices heard during these uncertain times, articulating their perceived lack of value to the corporation as many distribution centers fail to protect their employees from the spread of COVID-19.
Amazon is arguably essential as a distribution service that can put much-needed supplies in the hands of people who need them, but if the employees feel as if their employers have flagrant disregard for their health and safety, it should be no surprise that employees disengage and become vocal about their discomfort with the working environment. CEO Jeff Bezos has made repeated promises in the past to address the claims of toxic corporate culture within Amazon, but it seems that extraneous circumstances continue to bring out the very worst of capitalism within its distribution centers. As an “essential” business, Amazon has a responsibility to its employees to ensure they have a safe working environment by respecting social distancing protocol and providing safety equipment to protect them during the outbreak.
Disregarding restrictions set by the Center for Disease Control and other federal agencies during a pandemic as a non-essential business is a perfect storm for rapid deterioration of corporate culture. Even if the corporate culture was previously healthy within a company or organization, such blatant disregard for health and safety become a malignancy within the workforce, where employees do not feel valued, and disengage from their jobs, leading to further drop in productivity. To prevent this from happening to your company, the steps are really very simple:
If you’re not one of the designated “essential” business types, it’s imperative to allow your employees to do as much work as possible from home, and close all brick-and-mortar locations that would allow the continued spread of COVID-19.
If you are an “essential business,” carefully evaluate within the context of your business model constitutes an essential job or task. If it can be done over the phone, over email, or over video-conference, it should be.
Take advantage of any opportunity to limit human contact. Keep all on-site workers a strict 6 feet apart, encourage heavy hand-washing and commitment to maintaining excellent sanitary conditions in the workspace.
The bottom line is that taking care of your essential employees in this uncertain time can only positively impact your workforce. When physical risk is not a part of the job description, it is easy for employees to feel inherently undervalued when they’re asked to risk their health in the interest of their job. Disregarding the limits put in place for the betterment of public health can only incite decline in your corporate culture.
Private investigators help with a myriad of corporate issues: from helping employers discover employee theft, to helping attorneys gather information for a case, there is very rarely a time where conflict arises in a professional situation when a private investigator would not be helpful, if not necessary.
Once someone decides to hire a private investigator for their corporate needs, the next question becomes who to hire. A quick internet search will show that there are a lot of options when it comes to hiring an investigator, from different specialities to different geographic locations.
In this blog post we discuss why it’s important to consider geographic location specifically as one of the most important factors when choosing a private investigator, and why it is advised to find a local private investigator instead of going with a national firm.
The vast majority of the time, private investigators deal with sensitive, confidential information that is relatively urgent in nature. Because of this, clients of a P.I. tend to take comfort in having an investigator that they can meet with in person and speak to concerning the sensitive details of a case. They also demand someone who delivers fast results after conducting an investigation. A lot of clients appreciate simply being able to call a local number or even stop by the investigator’s office if something is bothering them. A local P.I. is the obvious choice for anyone feeling insecure or vulnerable in a case requiring a P.I. because of the added comfort it brings.
Intricate Knowledge of Local Laws:
Oftentimes investigation cases deal with matters of the law, which is another reason why it is recommended to go with a local investigator. If you are dealing with a case that includes issues of local or state law, it will be far easier to work with someone who has experience strictly in the region you are dealing with and knows the laws inherently without having to charge you for research time. Especially in legal cases, a local P.I. is an asset that can also act as a resource for understanding local laws and practices for fraud and evasion situations.
Avoiding Middle Men:
Oftentimes, national or online private investigators will receive your case and then farm it out to a local P.I. anyway. By hiring locally, you are essentially just cutting out the middle-man and going directly to the local P.I., and this way you get to choose which P.I. will handle your situation instead of leaving it to the firm to assign it to someone, and you will save money by cutting out the larger firm that will take a percentage of the profits.
Knowledge of Local Logistics and Local Sources:
If you hire a local private investigator for a local case, you’re going to find someone who deals exclusively with the area you are in. This means that the P.I.’s network will be refined to this area and that he or she will have access to local logistics and sources that a national P.I. won’t have. P.I.’s often need to use numbers with local area codes to make phone calls, they need to set up meeting places in local areas, and they need to be on site for almost the entirety of the investigation. This all requires access to people, places, and information that local P.I.’s will have.
Familiarity With the Area:
Not only will a local investigator have better access to resources, but an investigator looking into a case in his or her own area will have the benefit of knowing the context in which the case is unfolding and being familiar with any important locations or cultural specificities relevant to the case. The simple fact that your P.I. will be familiar in working in your area will make the case easier to solve, make the process easier and faster, and help you to get things resolved sooner.
Supporting Local Businesses:
We are living in a time where going local is a good idea simply for the sake of going local. Supporting your local businesses is good for your city, good for the overall economy, and good for your peace of mind. Globalization opens doors for many people, but it closes doors to local businesses in the process, and this is leading to a lot of vulnerability for industries like private investigation. If you have a local private investigator who will get the job done effectively, don’t hesitate to give them business.
Large private investigative firms can give you the feeling of security, but in reality your case will simply be treated more slowly and in a less personal manner. Not only that, but you will end up paying for the extra travel and research expenses that will go into solving your case. For all of these reasons, going local for your investigation needs makes sense from a practical, emotional, and financial standpoint.
The day after Valentine’s Day this February 14, 2013, national news reports indicated a spike in new online dating memberships. Once somewhat frowned upon, looking for love online has become more socially acceptable in the last ten years.
Ann Friedman, a politics columnist for New York’s website, reported in her article Cupid’s Cursor, that one-third of America’s 90 million singles have used online dating services. While some find love, get married, living happily ever after, some have met with tragedy.
Robyn Gardner, who I wrote about August 25, 2011 in an article Missing Persons Advocacy Network, remains missing after meeting Gary V. Giordano online. They met each other on an online dating site, and saw each other a couple times a month. Robyn considered Giordano a friend and agreed to take a vacation to Aruba where she vanished. Her family is still desperately searching for answers.
Robyn Gardner is just one of many women who have fell victim to an online predator. November 30, 2012, Michigan law enforcement announced the body of Leigh Swanson had been found in the woods, approximately 10 miles northwest of Midland. Her cause of death was a fatal gunshot.
Swanson, 45 years old, had met a man on an online dating site according to her mother, Beverly Kane. Kane said her daughter had expressed that she had a bad feeling prior to going on the date but made a call to her mother on November 18, 2012 from the man’s home indicating everything was fine and she would be home soon. She never arrived and no one knew whom she had gone on the date with.
After Swanson was reported missing, authorities traced the call to a house in Edenville Township, and dispatched deputies to the location. When the deputies approached the front door, they heard a gunshot from inside and ordered anyone inside to come out with their hands over their heads. A man exited the home holding a cell phone in his hand. The man had been on the phone with 911 reporting his son had just shot himself. A search ensued, and police found Swanson’s body in a wooded area on a neighboring property.
While the good news stories about online dating far outnumber the bad, the harsh reality is, online dating can also put people at risk. Following are some tips that can help keep you safe. Remember you can never take too much precaution when it comes to your personal safety.
Always meet in a public place. Never invite the individual to pick you up from your home or accept an invitation to theirs.
Use the online dating site email system to communicate. Remember, the more information you give out the easier you are to find. Even providing a private email address gives someone enough information to find out who you are and where you live.
If you decide to meet personally, attempt to obtain as much verifiable information about the person prior to the meeting, such as name and phone number.
Make sure you let someone close to you know who you are meeting, where you are meeting, and as much information about the person as possible. You can even have your friend call you during the date. This gives your friends and family peace of mind but also sends a clear message to the individual you are with that others know where you are.
No matter how comfortable you feel with the person, never leave your food or drink unattended.
While I am not discouraging anyone from online dating, I do encourage you to take every precaution necessary to protect yourself.
About the Author: Kym L. Pasqualini is founder of the Nation’s missing Children Organization in 1994 and the National Center for Missing Adults in 2000. She served as CEO until January 2010. Kym is recognized as an expert in the field of missing persons, and has spent 20 years working with government officials, advocates, and national media. She is also a contributor to Lauth Investigations International and the Missing Persons Advocacy Network.