Whistleblower investigations following the occurrence of an allegation within organisations play a critical role in maintaining integrity, regulatory compliance. Managers are often tasked with overseeing these investigations, ensuring that they adhere to legal frameworks and ethical standards. However, these kinds of processes have various legal boundaries and responsibilities attached to them to safeguard the rights of all parties involved.

We take below into the different responsibilities and boundaries of managers in the context of internal company investigations.

Compliance with labour law and compliance

A fundamental aspect of internal investigations is adherence to legal statutes governing labour law as well as compliance.

Managers must ensure that internal investigations are conducted in a manner that respects the law, and the rights of employees. Similarly, management compliance with the law is fundamental to maintaining organisational integrity.

Protecting Data Protection rights

Following the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), managers must prioritise the protection of employees’ privacy and personal data protection rights. Whistleblower investigations must respect employees’ privacy expectations and adhere to the provisions of the GDPR. Surveillance, monitoring or searches should be conducted only within the bounds of a reasonable expectation of privacy, avoiding undue intrusions into any employee’s personal affairs. And making appropriate and reasonable use of personal data, obtained with the employee’s own consent.

Responsibilities During Whistleblower Investigations

Managers overseeing internal investigations have important responsibilities to ensure fairness and transparency throughout the process. They should allocate adequate resources and define clear and appropriate protocols for investigations. These investigative processes should be managed by a manager, without the direct intermediation of any manager.

Throughout investigations, managers should maintain the presumption of innocence for all subjects involved and protect their identities. Communication should be transparent, respecting the interests of the whistleblower and the professionals involved in the investigation.

Rights and Duties of Employees

Employees under investigation have certain rights and duties crucial to the integrity of the process. While they have a duty to cooperate, requests must be reasonable and privacy rights must be respected. Whistleblower protection against retaliation is vital, although whistleblowers and/or the reported may face sanctions if they are involved in unlawful activities.

Consequences for Irresponsible Acts During Whistleblower Investigations

Irresponsible conduct during whistleblower investigations can have legal consequences for the perpetrator. Managers should exercise caution in assuming unfounded theories or even invading the privacy of individuals, ensuring that investigations remain within legal boundaries.

Diligence During Investigations

Managers should act in a diligent manner throughout the investigation process. This includes helping investigators, protecting the identities of complainants, employees under investigation and witnesses. And including not probing or meddling in ongoing investigations or discussing matters with unauthorised personnel or taking actions without the explicit approval of investigators.