eeoc sample investigation interview questions

As an employer, creating a safe, secure and inclusive work environment is an important part of keeping your team happy and productive. Conducting a thorough investigation into any potential discrimination or harassment claims is paramount to maintaining a positive environment. In order to ensure that no important details are left out, having a well-crafted list of sample investigation interview questions can be extremely helpful. This blog post will discuss EEOC sample investigation interview questions, and how to incorporate them into your investigations. Understanding what types of questions to ask, and how to ask them effectively, is essential for any employer conducting an investigation. With the right preparation, you can ensure that your investigation is thorough and unbiased, and that any claims of discrimination or harassment are handled with the gravity that they deserve.

The investigation questions include:
  • What did you see and hear?
  • When was it? …
  • Where did it take place?
  • Who was involved in the claims?
  • What did each person in the incident do and say?
  • What did you do and say?
  • Was anyone else present?
  • How did the complainant and subject react in response to what you witnessed?

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eeoc sample investigation interview questions

Expand on the who, what, where, when, why, and how of what happened during your HR investigation interviews. Posted by Ann Snook on March 14th, 2022.

It can cost your business money if you don’t ask the right interviewees the right questions.

In a recent wrongful dismissal lawsuit, a towing company was ordered to pay a fired employee nearly $20,000 in compensation. The witnesses they questioned during their workplace investigation were crucial to their decision to fire them, but the accounts varied during different interviews.

“Where this particular [employer] fell short was in the credibility of the witnesses that were put forward, particularly the witness to the conduct, who was inconsistent,” explains employment lawyer Ted Flett. “I think that proved to be highly problematic, as he was central for allegedly having observed the theft having taken place.”

Start by posing the sample HR investigation questions listed below during your interviews to ensure you are getting the most useful information. Use them as a starting point for the discussion and go over the essentials of what happened, but don’t stop there. The only way to discover the full truth is to ask the probing questions that follow from what is revealed during the conversation.

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No matter how ridiculous or improbable the reporter’s complaint may seem, it is crucial to take it seriously. Sometimes even the most beloved manager is a harasser, or a devoted worker is secretly stealing from the business.

Another justification for treating complaints seriously is to reassure both the complainant and others that the company will investigate and fairly evaluate their issues, no matter how minor. This fosters a culture of speaking up and raises the likelihood that others will do the same in the future.

By resolving issues early on and before they have a chance to become more serious, you’ll also lower your risk of lawsuits and fines.

No matter what kind of incident you are looking into, speak with the victim/reporter/complainant first. This will enable you to learn more information about the complaint, allowing you to focus your investigation.

The reporter can also provide the names of potential witnesses that can help with your investigation, according to SHRM.

Your main goal is to learn the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the incident during the reporter’s interview. Ask them to provide as many details as possible.

Don’t push too hard, though, especially if the reporter is experiencing harassment, discrimination, or other forms of abuse. They might become overwhelmed or distraught recalling the events.

Read their body language and tone. Offer to stop or continue on another day if they start to feel tense or shut down. Be compassionate without adopting a bias toward the reporter. Also, point them in the direction of any mental health resources your company offers, like an EAP.

Ask the reporter the following questions about the HR investigation:

  • What happened? Be as specific as possible.
  • What was the date, time, and duration of the incident or behavior?
  • How many times did this happen, that you’re aware of?
  • Where did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • Did anyone else see it happen? Who? What did they say and/or do in response?
  • Was there physical contact? Describe it. Demonstrate it.
  • What did you do in response to the incident or behavior?
  • What did you say in response to the incident or behavior?
  • How did the subject of the allegation react to your response?
  • Did you report the incident to your or another manager? Who? When? What they say and/or do?
  • Did you tell any other employees about the incident or behavior? Who? What did they say and/or do?
  • Do you know whether the subject of the allegation has been involved in any other incidents?
  • Do you know why the incident or behavior occurred?
  • Do you know anyone else who can shed light on this incident?
  • Has this affected you and/or your work? If so, how?
  • Do you have any physical evidence of the incident you can share (e.g. emails, notes, etc.)
  • How would you like us to address/resolve this situation?
  • Is there anything else you want to tell me about the issue?
  • Interviewing witnesses comes next after speaking with the complaint’s author.

    Witnesses can shed light on some of the details that the reporter may not have been able or willing to provide and help to confirm or deny the reporter’s account of what occurred.

    Of course, those who actually witnessed or heard the incident make for the most compelling witnesses. However, witnesses can also be people who heard about the incident from other people who saw it, people the reporter told about it after it happened, or anyone else the reporter mentions who might know more about the situation.

    Consider speaking with witnesses from those cases as well if the complaint’s subject was involved in other incidents, especially ones that are comparable to the one you’re currently looking into.

    Some witnesses might be hesitant to cooperate. If they were complicit or involved in the incident, they might want to shield a friend or avoid drawing attention to themselves.

    Assure them of their safety and that your investigation will benefit greatly from their feedback. Stress the “no retaliation” policy of your business and pledge to maintain the account’s confidentiality.

    You can get the most pertinent information from your witnesses by using the following HR investigation questions:

  • What did you witness? Provide as many details as you can.
  • What was the date, time, and duration of the incident or behavior you witnessed?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • What did each person do and say?
  • Did anyone else see it happen? Who?
  • What did you do after witnessing the incident or behavior?
  • Did you say anything to the parties involved in response to what you witnessed?
  • How did the complainant and the subject of the allegation react to your response?
  • Did you report this to anyone in management? To whom? When? What they say and/or do?
  • Did you tell any other employees about the incident? Who?
  • Do you know why the incident occurred?
  • Do you have physical evidence of the incident you can share?
  • Do you know anyone else who can shed light on this incident?
  • Is there anything else you want to tell me that I haven’t asked you?
  • Finally, interview the person accused of the incident or behavior. This could be the most difficult and delicate interview you ever conduct.

    Before you attend this crucial interview, you’ve heard the accounts of everyone else involved in the incident, and it can be difficult to resist forming an opinion. However, it’s crucial that you maintain an open mind to prevent drawing conclusions based solely on what you’ve already heard.

    Keep in mind that the only goal of speaking with the accused employee is to learn the truth. At this time, you shouldn’t try to make any decisions or judgments.

    When you tell the person what they are accused of, they might respond in a number of unsettling ways. They could shut down and refuse to cooperate. They might lash out, becoming verbally or physically violent.

    Stay safe and avoid accusations of coercion or wrongful dismissal by having two investigators in the room, if possible. Recording the interview can also help prevent negative consequences. Check this list to see if your state requires the accused to agree to recording or if you can make the decision on your own.

    Here’s what to ask the accused person:

  • What happened? Provide as many details as possible.
  • If the subject denies that the incident occurred, ask:

  • Is there any reason anyone would invent or lie about the incident?
  • Where were you on the date and time the alleged incident occurred?
  • Do you have any witnesses who can corroborate your whereabouts at the time of the incident?
  • If the subject doesn’t deny that the incident occurred, ask:

  • When (date and time) and where did this happen?
  • What were the circumstances leading up to the incident?
  • Was anyone else was involved?
  • What is your connection to the complainant?
  • Are you aware of any other complaints by this person?
  • Recount the dialogue that occurred as best as you can remember.
  • What did the complainant do or say?
  • Is there any evidence (e.g. emails, notes, messages) to support your account of what happened?
  • Is there anyone else we should talk to who had knowledge of the incident or the circumstances surrounding it?
  • Have you talked to anyone about the incident? Who? What did you tell them?
  • Download this free eBook to learn how to better recognize deception and its various manifestations.

    Dos and Don’ts for Questioning All Parties

    During your investigation, you want to gather as much information as possible while exerting the least amount of effort possible. You must enter the interview meeting with the proper mindset and approach regardless of who you are interviewing.

    Everyone has personal biases. It’s up to you to be aware of and account for your own biases. An excellent investigator possesses both the self-awareness and self-control necessary for this task.

    When you ask questions about an HR investigation, bear in mind these dos and don’ts.

    Do thank the employee. The interviewee gave up time from their day to assist with the investigation, and occasionally they might feel anxious to speak. Thank them for coming, and provide them with comforts like a glass of water or coffee before questioning them.

    Don’t ask loaded questions. According to SHRM, “a loaded question is one that assumes a fact that has not yet been established.”

    Say, for instance, Shayna claims Brad called her a racial slur. Don’t ask Brad what slur he called Shayna in the interview, assuming he actually said the slur. Say “Share what you talked about with Shayna during your one-on-one meeting” instead. ”.

    Do keep your body language objective. A person being interviewed may believe that you are “on their side” or passing judgment on them if you nod or frown in response to their response. Maintain a neutral expression, sit erect, and remain motionless as the employee responds.

    Don’t lead the interviewees. Ask questions in a way that doesn’t take sides. Try asking a witness, “Tell me what happened at your team meeting on March 12,” rather than, “You heard Kyle yell at Mary, right?” ”.

    Do keep questions simple. Long questions filled with jargon will just confuse your interviewees. Instead of using multi-part questions, use brief inquiries that are intended to gather one detail at a time. You can ask follow-up questions to get more information based on the employee’s response.

    Don’t ask questions that assign judgement. Avoid asking interviewees if they saw, experienced, or participated in inappropriate or unusual behavior. They now have the authority to determine whether a behavior fits into one of those categories. Instead, ask objectively about the behavior.

    Try asking, “What did you hear Mike say to Isha? Was it sexual in nature?” as opposed to, “Did Mike make an inappropriate remark toward Isha.”

    Do build rapport. Employees will be more forthcoming with answers to your HR investigation questions if they believe you. Act amiable, start the interview with some neutral small talk, and use language that makes them comfortable in order to gain their trust (i e. no jargon or buzzwords).

    To learn more about how to build and maintain rapport with your interviewees, download this free cheat sheet.

    The interview’s final few minutes can occasionally prove to be its most fruitful period.

    Gratitude is due to the interviewee for their time and assistance in revealing the truth. Allow silence to permeate the room as you slowly pack up to give the person a chance to provide more details.

    Interview subjects have been known to reveal revealing information after the interview when they aren’t being questioned. Investigators shouldn’t pass up this crucial chance to learn more from them.

    Whether or not your subject offers additional information at the conclusion of the interview, it’s critical to conclude on a positive note. Express your gratitude for their assistance and give them your contact information in case they have any additional thoughts. They are more likely to assist you in the future if they feel good about the experience and you.

    You must also keep your biases in check and adhere to best practices when evaluating the credibility of the subject, the reporter, and the witnesses. Ask some fundamental inquiries unrelated to the incident under investigation before posing the questions outlined above for the HR investigation.

    They ought to be benign inquiries with predetermined, factual responses. By doing so, you can create a baseline for evaluating the person’s future behavior, language, and demeanor.

    Examples of baseline questions include:

  • How long have you worked at the company?
  • What is your position?
  • How long have you been in this position?
  • When the interviewee responds to these non-threatening questions, pay attention to their speech patterns, gestures, and level of eye contact. When you inquire about the incident, this enables you to determine whether their behavior has changed.

    After your interviews are complete, assess the likelihood that each employee was being truthful. To figure this out, consider:

  • Does the employee have a reason to lie/omit information?
  • Does their story match the other employees’ accounts?
  • Did the employee exhibit signs of deception during their interview (e.g. sweating, shaky voice, tapping fingers)
  • Does their story make sense?
  • Is there evidence to corroborate their account?
  • You may need to schedule a second interview with an employee if you believe their account is not credible. Check to see if they maintain their story and act in the same manner. Ask fresh follow-up questions based on the other interviews in an effort to get them to reveal new or more frank information.

    Using HR Investigation Questions to Prevent Incidents

    In your organization, preventing incidents requires conducting thorough investigation interviews.

    You won’t be able to take preventive action if you can’t identify the root of the problem. To prevent the behavior from happening again, you can alter your policies, procedures, and culture if you understand why and how an incident occurred.

    When planning your interviews, be mindful. You can resolve cases more quickly and determine how to prevent future problems by speaking with the appropriate employees and asking the appropriate questions in the appropriate manner.

    eeoc sample investigation interview questions

    Ann is a marketing writer at i-Sight Software. She writes about topics such as corporate security, Title IX, ethics & compliance, and investigations into fraud, employee misconduct, among others.

    To our clients: We will never give out, sell, or otherwise make your email address available to anyone. Privacy Policy.


    What are examples of investigative questions?

    With that in mind, here are 10 key questions that can help start your investigation:
    • Who committed the alleged behavior?
    • What happened?
    • When did this occur? …
    • Where did this happen?
    • Did you express your anger over this to the accused?
    • Who else might have been a witness to what they saw or heard?

    How do you answer questions in an investigation?

    Your job is to only respond to questions that the investigator specifically asks. You should only respond to the investigator’s specific questions rather than sitting down and telling them lengthy tales. Stop talking after responding to the question and watch for the next one. This will make the process much easier and quicker.

    What questions are asked in a hostile work environment investigation?

    Key questions for conducting a hostile work environment investigation
    • What specific aspect of the workplace climate do you consider hostile?
    • How has the behavior negatively affected you and your work?
    • Are any other employees bothered by this behavior?
    • How often did it occur?
    • Who engaged in the behavior?

    What questions should be asked during a harassment investigation?

    Questions to Ask the Complainant:
    • Who, what, when, where, and how was the alleged harassment perpetrated?
    • How did you react? …
    • How did the harassment affect you? …
    • Are there any persons who have relevant information? …
    • Did the person who harassed you harass anyone else?

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