External Workplace Investigators

Why Hire an External Workplace Investigator?

To the benefit of all, there is an increasing push for more fair and equitable work environments in which all workers can participate, contribute and thrive. There is a related increase in accountability for employers who fail to foster this sort of positive work environment.

Issues like harassment and bullying don’t just work themselves out. They require immediate attention and remedy. Employers can help to ensure a fair and equitable work environment for all by setting out clear behavioural expectations set out in workplace policies as well as fair and thorough procedures for addressing, enforcing and disciplining harassing or discriminatory behaviours.

While many allegations of misconduct can be adequately investigated and addressed internally, there are also situations in which an external investigator should be hired. It is important for employers to recognize when your team is out of its depths and seek professional support and consultation.

When to Hire an External Workplace Investigator

There is no definitive set of circumstances in which a workplace investigation should not be handled internally. Every situation is unique as are the resources at your disposal to properly handle the investigation. However, an external investigator should probably be hired if:

  • The allegations are of a particularly serious nature (i.e. harassment, violence, fraud, theft)
  • The allegations involve serious criminal conduct
  • There is a possible conflict of interest
  • The dispute involves senior level employees

3 Benefits of Hiring an External Workplace Investigator

With so much riding – legally, as well as in the powerful court of public opinion – on how an employer handles a workplace investigation, it can be smart to bring in a professional. A flawed, biased or incomplete investigation can have devastating effects on the parties involved, employee morale and your business or organization’s overall well-being. A professional third-party investigator can help you resolve allegations of misconduct with both fairness and efficiency.

1. Impartiality

A successful workplace investigation is a fair workplace investigation. For the results and recommendations of an investigation to be accepted by all parties, it will need to be seen as honest and legitimate.

Especially in small workplaces without a dedicated HR department, it is essential that the person conducting the investigation be perceived as neutral, as having no biases, preferences or allegiances to either the accused or accuser. A professional outside investigator will shield your investigation from indictments of bias and impropriety.

2. Time and Resources

When something is amiss in your workplace, you need to act immediately. You want to get to the bottom of things quickly so that you can resolve the issue and get your workplace back on track.

But conducting a thorough and effective workplace investigation can eat up a lot of time and resources that could otherwise be devoted to normal workplace operations.

A professional workplace investigator will be minimally disruptive to the normal day-to-day operations of your business or organization. Their presence will allow you to focus on what you do best and make sure that you find a resolution that fosters continued positivity and productivity of your workplace.

3. Experience and Expertise

When serious allegations – such as sexual harassment or criminal activity – are brought forward, it is highly advisable to have someone with the necessary legal knowledge, expertise and training take over the investigation.

When someone’s job or health is on the line, you will want to take every precaution possible to ensure a proper investigation that respects the rights and dignity of all involved. (Click here for more information about employee rights during a workplace investigation) An experienced employment lawyer can bring appropriate knowledge and scrutiny to an investigation to ensure it is thorough and fair to all parties.

A Healthy Work Environment

Addressing allegations of harassment, bullying or any other workplace misconduct fosters a healthy work environment of trust and good faith. A thorough and appropriate investigation demonstrates to your employees that you take their concerns and well-being seriously and reaffirms their confidence in you and your organization.

Workplace Investigation Legal Expert

At KCY at LAW, we investigate allegations related to a variety of workplace misconducts including harassment, conflicts of interest, human rights complaints, sexual harassment and discrimination. Privacy and sensitivity are our utmost concerns.

KCY at LAW is equipped to conduct external and independent workplace investigations for organizations – both private and public of all sizes.

Call us to book your consultation at 905-639-0999 or fill out our online form here.

Independent Contractor Agreements

The gig economy has, in many ways, turned the traditional notion of an employment relationship on its head. Whereas in the past, most employees were hired on a permanent basis, many employers now prefer to hire independent contractors to support a particular project on a short-term basis or a smaller role on an ongoing basis.

Though independent contractors have always been a vital part of the economy, they are now common in more industries than ever before. The first thing to come to mind when you think of an independent contractor might be someone who works in the trades who you hire to renovate part of your house or a specialist hired to consult on a big project. However, independent contractors work in a wide variety of fields.

For the independent contractors, their ‘freelance’ status can give them flexibility to choose projects they find particularly fulfilling, profitable and condusive to their lifestyle. For businesses, companies and organizations, hiring workers on a contract-basis can be a cost-effective practice. You can hire a specialist to address a workplace need beyond your current workers’ capacity at a lower cost than hiring another permanent employee. No need for termination pay or benefits. No need to offer sick days or vacation time.

Independent contractors can be highly economical for businesses of all sizes that need professional work done on a temporary or project basis – if their contract agreement is properly drafted.

While there are many benefits of hiring an independent contractor, there are several risks you may face if your independent contractor agreement is not properly written.

A contractor is not your employee. Therefore, an independent contractor agreement is not an employment agreement. Giving your contractor an employment agreement would make them your employee and therefore entitled to benefits such as vacation pay, sick days, termination notice and various other employee rights set out in the Employment Standards Act (ESA).

Employers should have a comprehensive, well-drafted and enforceable agreement to present to an independent contractor that details the terms of the working arrangement.

An independent contractor agreement should set clear expectations regarding the work that the contractor is to complete and the compensation you will provide in turn.

A proper independent contractor agreement will define the relationship between and expectation of both you and your contractor. Details that should be contained in an agreement include, but are not limited to:

  • The work to be completed
  • Delivery timelines and deadlines
  • Termination procedures
  • How and when payment(s) will be made
  • Intellectual property assignment
  • Dispute resolution
  • Non-disclosure of confidential business information
  • How expenses associated with the project will be handled.

If you, your business or organization require the services of an independent contractor, you can trust the professionals at KCY at LAW to prepare a clear, comprehensive, fair and enforceable independent contractor agreement. Call us to book your consultation at 905-639-0999 or fill out our online form here.

Amending Contracts

Times change and so do circumstances. There are many legitimate reasons an employer may want or need to amend the terms of an employee’s contract. Perhaps there is an economic downturn and you need to make cuts to benefits in order to avoid terminating the employment of any of your staff. Or maybe you want an employee to take on new tasks to compensate for an employee on parental leave. Whatever the reason – changing business needs, means of production, or economy – employers have a right to alter existing employee contracts.

But you must be cautious.

Amending Contracts Requires Consideration

A unilateral change to an employee’s contract that significantly reduces compensation, status or substantially alters another fundamental aspect of the employee’s job – work location, hours, duties – that doesn’t give the employee reasonable consideration and notice will constitute a constructive dismissal and result in you paying damages for wrongful dismissal.

In order to make a significant change to an employee’s contract you must receive the employee’s written consent to the changes. Furthermore, these changes provide the employee with an exchange of valuable consideration.

In this legal context, consideration means that there is an exchange of mutual benefit to both the you and your employee. Consideration may be a promotion, better benefits or more vacation time as a sort of exchange for other alterations to their employment contract. Consideration is key when presenting an employee with changes to their employment contract.

Furthermore, an employer must give an employee reasonable notice of the proposed changes to their employment contract. The length of this notice is generally the same as a without cause dismissal and can therefore be as long as months or even years. Therefore, if an employee has been with your business for three years, they would be entitled to three weeks’ notice to consider the changes to their contract and accept the offer.

This notice period gives the employee the opportunity to negotiate the terms of the change to their employment contract, or to find new work if they believe the new employment terms and conditions would be untenable.

If your employee chooses to reject your proposed changes to their employment contract, you have two options:

  1. You may terminate the employee without cause by providing appropriate notice or pay in lieu thereof and then offer re-employment to the same employee on the new terms.
  2. You may accept that there is no agreement to your proposed changes and continue the employment relationship with its existing terms.

Decisions should be made by employers on a case by case basis to determine if unilateral changes, termination or keeping employment the same is the best solution under the circumstances.

To avoid the financial and reputation costs of a constructive dismissal suit, always consult with an employment lawyer before making changes to your employees’ employment contract. KCY at LAW can help you implement fair and enforceable changes to employment contracts. To book your consultation, call 905-639-0999