From our base in the heart of central Indiana, members of the Lauth Investigations team periodically find ourselves heading out to support a diversity of corporate entities as they navigate a workplace discrimination investigation. For any business owner – be their enterprise small of vast – the idea that workplace discrimination might be festering is a dreaded one indeed. Under such circumstances, our dedicated private investigators are poised to help.
We all want to know that our employees feel valued and welcome, and that HR compliance is ever top-notch. However, despite the best of intentions, getting caught out by a workplace discrimination complaint is not uncommon. In these moments, what truly matters is navigating the necessary investigation that follows with diligence and integrity. Expert private investigators can provide just the skills and experience required to ensure that your investigative process doesn’t miss a beat, that justice is done, and that the reputation of your business is upheld.
The Many Forms and Faces of Workplace Discrimination
Working to help organizations in Indianapolis and further afield ensure best propriety practices, we do sadly encounter discriminatory behavior in many different forms. Fundamentally, workplace discrimination means curtailing career opportunities or negatively impacting the professional life of an employee or colleague based on their color, race, religion, national origin, age, sex, handicap, or marital status. While some workplace discrimination may be very much intentional, at other times, perpetrators may even be unaware that they are acting inappropriately or breaching conduct protocols.
Whether innocent or not, workplace discrimination can fall foul of both Federal and State employment and labor laws, meaning that consequences can be serious for perpetrators and their superiors alike. When driven by discriminatory factors, what might workplace discrimination actually look like? An individual being discriminated against may find themselves at a disadvantage in terms of salary, professional opportunities, or working conditions. They may experience harassment or victimization, and may be denied legally protected rights or be subjected to retaliation if they complain.
Remaining alert to indicators of workplace discrimination is vital for any organization, as is understanding the letter of the law. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects all individuals against workplace discrimination on the basis of religion, sex, national origin, race, or color. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 safeguards the rights of individuals with disabilities, while the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
protects those over the age of 40 from age-related discrimination.
Advantages in the Decision to Hire a Private Investigator
Because of the gravity of workplace discrimination complaints, the decision to hire a private investigator can offer a multitude of protections and assurances. Self-conducting internal investigations of this nature can put a heavy strain on those who work alongside both the complainant and accused. This can lead to emotional fallout, a negative impact on team performance, and difficulty in ensuring the impartiality of conclusions drawn.
In contrast, an experienced investigator, seasoned in meticulously gathering evidence and questioning all parties with care and neutrality, can help to provide peace of mind to all who surround a workplace discrimination investigation. They can ensure the integrity of the investigation – offering guidance that will stand up to legal scrutiny, and even providing court testimony should the need arise.
For an employer of any scale, taking a clear and moral stance while demonstrating the capacity to conduct fair investigations is always a prudent move. Contemporary consumers and professionals alike look first to businesses who are forward thinking, with compassion evident as a core value. While a workplace discrimination complaint may seem like the worst that could happen, any opportunity – no matter how challenging – to elevate the way a business operates will ultimately prove valuable. The Corporate Investigations team at Lauth HQ in Indianapolis are ready to serve those in central Indiana and far beyond. Contact us to learn more about how we can assist today.
When we think of the phrase quid pro quo, “something for something,” we typically think of sexual harassment in the workplace. The presumption is in cases of sexual harassment is that a boss or supervisor will make unwanted advances towards their subordinate employees in exchange for work benefits or under threat of termination. But quid pro quo comes in multiple forms, and corporations should be vigilant of such activity within their organization, or risk a harmful malignancy in their corporate culture that will ultimately have negative consequences.
In the context of sexual harassment, quid pro quo means that an employee has been subjected to unwelcome advances as a term of their employment. This obviously constitutes a hostile work environment, and while it is morally repugnant to ignore such behavior, there are also negative consequences that impact the entire business. A hostile work environment can cause disruptions to daily operations that are costly for the business or organization. A person who is subjected to sexual harassment from a superior or other coworker is typically not as engaged as other employees. They do not dedicate the same level of focus to their work as they would in a non-hostile work environment. They tend to make more mistakes, and be more inclined to malinger in order to avoid their circumstances. This can lead to loss of productivity that may ultimately affect the corporation’s bottom line. It also poisons the cycle of corporate culture. As the affected employee disengages from their position, it can have a ripple effect throughout the workplace that will cause the corporate culture to rot.
Another form of quid pro quo that is less covered by media is bribery. Under the definition of “something for something,” bribery can occur between clients and their contractors, between contractors and businesses, or between businesses. When it occurs between businesses, this is typically the result of a mutually beneficial agreement. In another scenario businesses might also pay government officials for preferential treatment that would effect their bottom line. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Studies show that [corporate bribery] is also counterproductive resulting in lower profit margins, return on equity, and employee morale; costly delays as players haggle over the size of the kickback; and poverty and poor governance in the markets where they’re paid.” It goes on to say that according to the World Bank, “roughly one-third of firms around the world use kickbacks, paying an estimated total of $400 billion a year.”
Quid pro quo situations like sexual harassment and bribery also open the business or organization up to a parade of legal action and bad press that can ultimately devastate a company. Both corporations and nonprofits alike have seen whistle-blowers go to the government or the press if their concerns are not being heard from within the organization. Perhaps there is a sexual predator in the organization who was not terminated following a comprehensive investigation, or the investigation was not comprehensive at all. Many corporations might incorrectly assume that it is easier to push the problem under the rug rather than deal with the costs of turnover—interviewing a replacement, vetting applicants, and then devoting resources to training and onboarding. However, should the circumstances of the quid pro quo every become public, the costs of ignoring the problem will eventually be paid in full in litigation costs, bad press, and loss of business.
If you suspect there is quid pro quo going on in your business or organization, you can find answers with Lauth Investigations International. Lauth’s team of private investigators is comprised of former military and law enforcement personnel who are highly-trained in intelligence operations in corporate settings. We can perform background checks, initiate discrete undercover operations, offer top-notch surveillance, and provide expert recommendations for our clients. We carry a stellar A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and are available 24/7 for our clients.
If you follow the mission and directives of nonprofit organizations, you’ve likely heard of United Way Worldwide. According to their website, the nonprofit “advances the common good in communities across the world. Our focus is on education, income and health—the building blocks for a good quality of life.” However noble their mission statement, United Way has been in the news recently as former employees have come forward with reports of a hostile work environment, prompting an internal investigation.
The United Way investigation began when former employers decided to take a stand against a toxic corporate culture. The allegations of a toxic, hostile work environment came in the form of a letter that was signed by an anonymous group of former United Way of Summit and Media, citing pervasive problems such as racism, sexual harassment, and nepotism. While the word “anonymous” raises eyebrows in conjunction with whistle-blowing, it bears pointing out that these former employees claim they will be subject to retaliation. The letter was sent to United Way board members on July 31, prompting board chairman Mark Krohn to announce the onset of an internal investigation.
Harassment and bullying are just one of the allegations made by the former employees who signed this letter, and this has led to one United Way board member already resigning. One of the first dominoes to fall in the United Way investigation was former board member Elizabeth Bartz, who was in charge of running government affairs in Akron, Ohio. Leadership from the United Way of Summit and Media began investigating Bartz after there were allegations that she had verbally abused employees on social media. Bartz used Facebook Messenger to send a private message to another former employee, calling them a “toothless piranha” and accusing them of attempting “to ruin UW” with their allegations of bullying in harassment—ironically by engaging in bullying and harassment. This led to Bartz’s resignation.
Bartz’s reaction to the anonymous letter might actually validate these anonymous claims by former United Way employees. However, according to an article by the Beacon Journal, these anonymous former employees are feeling ignored after an investigator reported that the allegations in the letter “were mostly unsubstantiated.” A former employee who claimed to speak for the group told the Beacon Journal, “It’s clear it’s not an objective report…We can’t keep talking if we’re not going to be valued and our experiences are going to be diminished. It’s pretty disheartening when someone says they were sexually harassed and they are told it was ‘he said/she said.”
The frustration and feeling of defeat expressed by these anonymous employees are the effects of poor corporate culture in motion. Like a piece of antique furniture with termites, poor corporate culture can rot a company from within. Looking at the list of grievances these former employees are citing—racism, sexual harassment, nepotism—these are all enormous and complex problems that are not created in a vacuum. The corporate culture of the workplace must be an environment where these issues are able to thrive in order to develop a pattern of behavior. When employees make claims about these types of internal issues, it is in the best interest of the corporation to submit to an independent corporate culture audit.
If your corporation or organization is experiencing repeated instances of internal difficulty, it might be time for a corporate culture audit. A corporate culture audit is a program that examines the internal policies of a corporation or organization, how those policies are enforced, how they effect the employees, and how those employees relate to each other as a result. If the corporate culture in a company is good, that positivity is baked into the internal operations, employees feel valued by their organization, and therefore will remain engaged and invested in maintaining productivity. Pervasive, repeated internal problems may not stem from a single factor, but the entire corporate culture of the workplace. Think of a corporate culture audit like a medical check-up for a business or organization. Lauth’s investigators evaluate the culture from leadership down, identifying the major factors in disruption, and advise leadership on how to improve their business from within. For more information on our corporate culture audit program, click here.