Workplace Investigations | When Are They Required?

Workplace Investigations: When Are They Necessary?

Maintaining a safe and respectful work environment is crucial for both employees and employers. In Ontario, workplace investigations play a vital role in addressing concerns, allegations, and violations within the workplace. 

This article aims to shed light on workplace investigations, outlining what they entail, the rights and responsibilities of employees, and the duties and obligations of employers in Ontario.

What are Workplace Investigations?

Workplace investigations are formal processes conducted by employers to gather facts and evidence when there are complaints or allegations of misconduct, harassment, discrimination, or other violations of employment laws or company policies. These investigations aim to ensure a fair and impartial examination of the situation, protect the rights and well-being of all parties involved, and determine the best course of action to resolve complaints.

In Ontario, employers must have policies in place regarding workplace violence and harassment, including procedures for reporting and investigating workplace complaints. This means that when an employee raises a concern, it is the employer’s duty to conduct a prompt investigation.

The purpose of a workplace investigation is to gather relevant information related to the complaint or incident. This can involve interviews with relevant parties, collecting documents, and preparing a report with the findings. 

What Employees Should Know

Employees have the right to a safe and respectful work environment, free from harassment and discrimination

Workplace investigations can be challenging and uncomfortable as they often involve conflicts between colleagues that are sometimes difficult to bring forward or to resolve. Accordingly, it is essential that employers ensure that all employees are treated fairly throughout the investigation process and that each complaint is investigated with:

  • Fairness;
  • Thoroughness;
  • Timeliness; and
  • Confidentiality.

As an employee, if you experience any form of mistreatment or witness inappropriate behaviour, it is important to promptly report it to the appropriate individual within your organization; such as a supervisor or human resources representative. 

When participating in an ongoing investigation, you should provide factual and honest information.

Remember that retaliation for reporting concerns or participating in investigations is strictly prohibited, and employers have an obligation to protect employees from such acts.

If you are an employee who has made a complaint or is responding to an allegation, an experienced employment lawyer can help you through the investigation.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our Experienced Employment Lawyers

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1-866-561-2176 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist.

Employer’s Duties, Obligations, and Consequences

During workplace investigations, employers have specific duties and obligations. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy work environment, promptly address concerns related to workplace violence, harassment, discrimination, and health and safety hazards.

It is highly recommended and at times required for employers to appoint a trained and neutral investigator to carry out the investigation. This ensures that the process is objective and unbiased, promoting fairness and integrity. The investigator’s role is to gather information, interview people involved, and assess the credibility of the allegations.

Workplace investigations are not optional but are a legal requirement for Ontario employers. Employers must conduct thorough and reasonable investigations to promptly address claims of harassment, discrimination and workplace violence. 

Neglecting complaints of harassment and discrimination in the workplace can have serious legal consequences for employers, such as:

To avoid these consequences, employers must be diligent in conducting investigations that adhere to best practices, including maintaining records, acting promptly, ensuring confidentiality, providing training, communicating findings, and maintaining a safe work environment.

Upon completion of an investigation, employers must take appropriate action based on the findings. This may include disciplinary measures, preventive measures, training, or policy revisions to prevent future incidents. 

It is crucial for employers to prevent retaliation against employees who report concerns or participate in investigations, creating a supportive environment where employees feel safe to come forward without fear of adverse consequences.

By fulfilling their duties and obligations during workplace investigations, employers can demonstrate a commitment to fairness, safety, and respect. This not only mitigates legal risks but also fosters a positive work environment where employees feel heard, protected, and valued.

If you are an employer who is investigating a harassment complaint, an experienced human rights litigation lawyer can help you reduce your exposure to liability.


Workplace investigations are a necessary and critical process in maintaining a safe and respectful work environment. For employees, it is essential to understand their rights and responsibilities, including the right to report concerns and participate in investigations without fear of retaliation. Employers, on the other hand, have specific duties and obligations when it comes to conducting workplace investigations.

Employers must ensure that investigations are conducted promptly, fairly, and impartially. This includes adhering to principles of fairness, thoroughness, timeliness, and confidentiality. By conducting investigations in a diligent and professional manner, employers can address complaints, gather relevant information, and make informed decisions to resolve workplace issues.

Failing to address complaints of harassment, discrimination, or misconduct can result in severe legal consequences, including legal proceedings before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal or constructive dismissal claims. It can also damage a company’s reputation, harm employee morale, and result in significant legal expenses. 

Employers should prioritize creating a safe and healthy work environment by promptly addressing concerns related to workplace violence, harassment, discrimination, and health and safety hazards. Taking corrective actions based on investigation findings is crucial to prevent future incidents and ensure a respectful workplace culture.

Contact Us

If you are an employer or an employee with questions about workplace investigations, or are seeking to clarify your legal obligations and rights, our team of experienced workplace lawyers can help. Contact us at 1 (866) 545-5801, or email [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

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