Your Rights During an HR Investigation (2023)

As an employee, it is important to understand your rights when faced with an HR investigation. Knowing your rights can help you defend yourself from any unfair treatment and give you the confidence of a secure working environment. This guide will provide you with a comprehensive overview of your rights, including what you can expect from an HR investigation, the rights you have during the investigation, and what to do if you feel you are being treated unfairly. This guide will ensure that you are fully informed of your rights and can navigate the HR process with confidence.

Overview of HR Investigations

Human resources investigations are internal company investigations that are typically prompted by a complaint or concern about employee behavior. HR investigations are used to collect evidence and facts surrounding the complaint, which are then used to determine if any corrective actions are necessary. They can also be used to determine if further action such as disciplinary actions, up to and including termination, are necessary. HR investigations may occur when an employee reports another employee for harassment or discrimination, an employee is accused of violating company policies or federal/state law, or any other action that may affect the safety and security of the workplace. Depending on the type of investigation, employees may be interviewed and asked to provide documentation such as emails, texts, or witness statements. Investigations may also involve the review of surveillance footage, logs, or employer records [[SOURCE 1]].

What Rights Do Employees Have During HR Investigations?

During an HR investigation, employees have certain rights that they should be aware of. These rights include:

1. The right to refuse to sign anything: Employers may ask you to sign a document acknowledging your participation in the investigation and your agreement to cooperate with the investigation. However, you are not required to sign this document. If you are ever asked to sign a document that you do not wish to sign, you can politely decline to sign it [[SOURCE 1]].

2. The right to ask to have a witness present during the investigation: If you feel that the employer's investigation is unfair or you feel that you are being treated unfairly during the investigation, you can ask to have a witness present during your interview. However, your employer can decline this request [[SOURCE 1]].

3. The right to decline to answer questions: You are not required to answer any questions throughout the investigation. You can decline to answer questions from the employer, and you can also decline to answer questions from the person who made the complaint against you. However, there can be downsides to refusing to participate in an investigation [[SOURCE 1]].

Expectations of Employees During HR Investigations

During an investigation, there are certain expectations of employees that should be followed. These expectations include:

1. Cooperating fully with the investigation: You should cooperate fully with the investigation and provide any information or documents requested by the employer. Failure to cooperate with the investigation could negatively impact the outcome and result in discipline [[SOURCE 1]].

2. Answering honestly during the investigation: You should answer questions honestly during the investigation and tell the truth about any facts related to the investigation. Providing false information could negatively impact the outcome of the investigation [[SOURCE 1]].

3. Producing requested documents: You should provide any documents requested by the employer as part of the investigation, such as emails, texts, written notes, and records of company policies. Refusing to produce requested documents could negatively impact the outcome of the investigation [[SOURCE 1]].

What To Do If You Feel Unfairly Treated During an HR Investigation

If you feel that your employer is treating you unfairly during an HR investigation, there are a few steps you can take:

1. Request a meeting with your manager or HR: You have the right to request a meeting with your manager or HR representative to discuss the investigation. In this meeting, you can respectfully explain your side of the story and ask for any documentation or evidence in your favor [[SOURCE 1]].

2. Request a copy of the investigation record: You can request a copy of the investigation record if you want to see the information that is being used in the investigation against you. However, keep in mind that employers are not required to give employees copies of the investigation record [[SOURCE 1]].

3. Request a copy of your personnel file: You can request a copy of your personnel file from your employer at any time. Your personnel file contains information such as disciplinary actions and terminations against you, performance reviews, and any other documents relating to your employment [[SOURCE 1]].

Employee Rights to Reasonable Accommodations

If you have a disability or special need, you may be entitled to reasonable accommodations from your employer in order to participate in an HR investigation. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications that are made in the workplace to accommodate people with disabilities. It is important to note that an investigation is not the ideal time to request an accommodation, but if you need one to participate in or understand an investigation, you should request it from your employer. Your employer can request medical documentation to support any request for a reasonable accommodation [[SOURCE 1]].

Rights to Access Investigation Records

Employees have the right to access certain investigation records. If an investigation is conducted against you, the investigation record can include information such as interview notes, written statements, and documents collected as part of the investigation. However, an investigation record does not include company documents that are unrelated to the investigation, documents that contain information about other individuals, documents that were created after the investigation was finished, and documents created before the investigation began. If you are involved in an investigation, you can request to review the investigation record. However, keep in mind that employers are not required to give you a copy of the investigation record if the investigation resulted in no disciplinary action against you [[SOURCE 1]].

Rights to Privacy and Confidentiality

During an investigation, your employer may ask you to sign a confidentiality agreement. This is a document that obliges you to keep all details of the investigation a secret. However, keep in mind that confidentiality agreements have limitations in certain situations. For example, if you are the victim of discrimination or harassment, you may be required to report it to HR and/or management [[SOURCE 1]].

Rights to Speak With a Lawyer

Throughout the investigation process, most companies will encourage you to speak to your HR representative about the investigation. However, you can request to speak to a lawyer if you believe that you are being treated unfairly or if you believe that the investigation is unfair and you want legal advice. If you decide to request to speak with a lawyer, you should not speak with HR or anyone else from the company until your lawyer has been consulted [[SOURCE 1]].


HR investigations can be intimidating, but it is important to remember that you have rights during the process. Understanding these rights can help you navigate the investigation with confidence and protect yourself from unfair treatment. If you ever find yourself involved in an HR investigation, remember to cooperate fully, answer honestly, and seek support from your manager, HR representative, or legal counsel if needed.

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