What are your options when dealing with a workplace investigation?

Get a lawyer who has helped numerous people to resolve complex and difficult investigations across Queensland.

What are your options when dealing with a workplace investigation?

Get a lawyer who has helped numerous people to resolve complex and difficult investgiations across Queensland.

How this firm can help protect you

How this firm can help protect you

Andrew Anderson, Legal Director, is an award-winning lawyer with a passion for employment law. He is independently recommended as being among the leading corporate crime, white-collar crime and regulatory investigations lawyers in Australia (Doyles Guide, 2020).
Having successfully represented litigants in the High Court of Australia, Queensland Court of Appeal, Royal Commissions, Fair Work Commission and multiple other courts dealing with trials and other hearings, Andrew Anderson understands how to succeed in complex and difficult cases.
Andrew Anderson has worked as a Principal Crown Prosecutor in Queensland and barrister in private practice at 8 Petrie Terrace Chambers in Brisbane. His depth of courtroom advocacy experience ranges from simple cases right through to complex trials and appeals.
Anderson Legal is a law firm that is dedicated to the best ideals of the legal profession. Seeking to exceed client expectations and fighting for justice is an everyday pursuit.

Learn more about workplace investigations

1. Specific workplace investigations

Workplace investigations are increasingly relied upon by employers to resolve complex or contested allegations or complaints that arise within the workplace. They are frequently undertaken with respect to issues relating to workplace bullying, sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct. There are specific issues that arise in relation to each type of allegation that may be investigated.

Workplace Bullying Allegations

If you are facing a workplace investigation into a bullying complaint, getting informed about your options is essential to protecting your rights and advancing your interests. It is all the more important if the allegations are unfair or vexatious.

The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) provides a definition of when a worker is bullied at work. It essentially requires a worker to be repeatedly subject to unreasonable behaviour by an individual or group of individuals, which creates a risk to health and safety. Workplace investigations into bullying complaints often focus on whether any conduct which is the subject of a bullying complaint may instead be reasonable management action.

Fraud & Other Criminal Allegations

As a leading criminal lawyer in Queensland who is independently recommended as being leading corporate crime, white-collar crime and regulatory investigations lawyers in Australia (Doyles Guide, 2020), Andrew Anderson has significant experience in assisting individuals who face workplace investigations that may involve suspected criminal activity. If you face a workplace investigation into fraud or other misconduct, contact Anderson Legal.

Discrimination Allegations

Discrimination in the workplace occurs when a person is treated, or is proposed to be treated, unfavourably because of a personal characteristic that the law protects from unfavourable treatment on that basis.

Workplace investigations into discrimination allegations may result in disciplinary action or dismissal, in addition to claims under anti-discrimination laws in force across Australia. There are a number of characteristics or attributes that are prohibited to be used as a basis of discrimination, for example, age, race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, political or religious activities, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and, personal status.

Public Sector Misconduct Allegations

If you are a public servant who is dealing with a workplace investigation into misconduct or other issues, it is important to understand the particular rights, responsibilities and options afforded to public sector workers.

Workplace investigations into public sector misconduct allegations can create different issues than those that might be experienced in the private sector. For instance, certain allegations may require investigation by an anti-corruption body, such as the Crime and Corruption Commission in Queensland. There are also certain rights, responsibilities and options that may apply to public sector workers, such as Queensland public servants or local government employees.

Sexual Harassment Allegations

If you are dealing with a workplace investigation into a sexual harassment complaint, it is important to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and the options and claims available to individuals who are subject to such issues.

Sexual harassment is defined in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). If you face a workplace investigation into a sexual harassment, getting informed about your options is essential to protecting your rights and advancing your interests. It is all the more important if the allegations are unfair or vexatious. Delays in getting informed and obtaining the right advice can lead to unnecessary mistakes, reputational harm and risks to employment security. 

Workplace Misconduct Allegations

Responding to a workplace investigation into alleged misconduct can be difficult for both employers and employees. In some instances, employers may even conduct investigations into occurring after hours and outside the workplace.

Workplace investigations into alleged misconduct may relate to numerous issues, from those arising directly in relation to capacity or conduct issues, such as absenteeism or a breach of workplace policies and procedures right through to issues arising outside of work, such as drink driving or other misconduct. Even if misconduct occurs outside of work and after hours, employers may still be able to take disciplinary action in some instances.

2. Common issues with workplace investigations

If you are facing an allegation that has prompted a workplace investigation, getting informed about the common issues that arise with such investigations might be crucial to protecting your interests and avoiding unfair findings against you.

Below is a list of common issues that people confront when dealing with workplace investigations. While the information about each issue has been created to help people seeking to learn more about these common issues, it cannot – and is not meant to – substitute legal consultation. To get tailored advice about an issue that may be raised in a specific case, contact Anderson Legal.

Unfair Workplace Investigations – Your Options

If you are facing a workplace investigation and are concerned that the process is unfair for some reason, getting informed about your options is essential to protecting your rights and advancing your interests.

A workplace investigation involves an examination of an allegation or allegations of wrongdoing against an employee. Its purpose is to enable decisions to be made about the issue in a way that enforces workplace standards, complies with legal obligations, and manages workplace risk. There are steps people can take to ensure procedural and substantive fairness when facing a workplace investigation that they believe to be unfair in some way.

Whistleblowers & Public Interest Disclosures

Whistleblower complaints and public interest disclosures (PIDs) can create complex issues for employers, employees and other individuals due to specific laws designed to create specific safeguards for whistleblowers.

A number of laws in Australia contain whistleblower protections, such as those contained in the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (Qld) and the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). While affording limited protections for whistleblowers in the private sector, there are significant public interest disclosure protections for individuals who raise allegations of misconduct or wrongdoing. Significant consequences attend adverse action or reprisal action against whistleblowers.

Confidentiality & Workplace Investigations

There is a duty on employers to preserve confidentiality during workplace investigations, due to the risks associated with real or perceived reputational damage. Failure to preserve confidentiality can result in successful claims against employers.

When faced with allegations and the need for a workplace investigation, employers have a duty of care with respect to maintaining confidentiality. Successful workers’ compensation claims and defamation claims may follow breaches of confidentiality obligations where reputational harm follows. For this reason, workplace investigations often involve requirements imposed on employees to strictly preserve confidentiality as part of the investigative process.  

Legal professional privilege is a concept that is deeply rooted in the legal system of Australia. Fundamentally, it is a privilege that protects the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and their clients (and perhaps others) so as to make them exempt from compulsory or forced disclosure. While it is a privilege that a client may waive, the sensitivity surrounding privileged legal communications generally makes it an important issue to deal with correctly.

3. Possible consequences of workplace investigations

For anybody facing allegations as part of a workplace investigation, there can be a number of consequences that can result. For many people, the potentially far-reaching effects from a workplace investigation can come as a shock, which underscores why early advice from an experienced lawyer can be crucial to protecting your rights and advancing your interests.

Responding to a Written Warning Letter at Work

If you receive an unfair written warning, there are a number of steps you can take to overturn its effect. Written warnings may be relied upon by employers for subsequent disciplinary actions to justify greater actions, such as dismissal.

While some written warnings at work state justified concerns about an employee’s capacity or conduct, others may be unfair, vague or misapprehends or overlook some important facts. Failing to take appropriate action to respond to an unfair written warning can make it more difficult to later challenge its validity, making it harder to respond to any later disciplinary action. For this reason, it is important to take action following a written warning at work.

Responding to a Show Cause Letter at Work

A show cause letter is often sent during a disciplinary process to notify an employee of possibility of action being taken against them, such as the termination of their employment, and give them an opportunity to provide a response.

If you need to respond to a show cause letter at work, it is necessary to understand the importance of your response to what may follow. Failing to raise certain issues, or addressing the wrong issues, may not only see you face a disciplinary decision that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable, you may also jeopardise your ability to take action over a wrongful decision. Getting advice when responding to a show cause letter can be critical to the outcome.

Dismissal & Termination Notices

Employers may choose to dismiss an employee for a conduct or capacity issue, which may follow a workplace investigation. The termination of employment may be without notice in cases of serious misconduct, such as for theft.

If you are dismissed from work and seek to know your options, there may be some steps you can take if you believe you were treated unlawfully or unfairly. Employees who are dismissed following a workplace investigation may seek to challenge the fairness of the investigation, or the reasoning in an investigation report, which may be the basis for an employer’s decision to dismiss. Flawed investigations can lead to successful unfair dismissal claims.

Bullying, Discrimination & Harassment Claims

If you are subject to bullying, discrimination or harassment, there are a number of possible claims that may be available to litigate, including through human rights and anti-discrimination commissions as well as the Fair Work Commission.

Increasingly, instead of seeking to deal with workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment claims simply through the Fair Work Commission, individuals are seeing the benefits of pursuing claims through human rights and anti-discrimination commissions across Australia. Additionally, people who suffer psychological or psychiatric injuries may also seek to pursue workers’ compensation claims among other types of claims that may be available.

General Protections Claims (Adverse Action)

In Australia, there are certain protections (called general protections) employees have that are designed to prevent an employer from taking adverse action over – such as disciplining or dismissing a worker because they exercise a workplace right.

A general protections claim allows a worker to bring a claim against their employer for taking actions that cause detriment (adverse action) because they exercise a workplace right or for some other protected reason. It is possible for employees to apply for injunctions to stop the decisions or actions taking effect, as well as to pursue compensation and other remedies for the resulting harm or damage caused by the adverse action.

Unfair Dismissal Claims

Following a workplace investigation that results in an employer deciding to dismiss an employee, it is often open for that employee to dispute the dismissal by filing an unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission.

Successful unfair dismissal claims may result in reinstatement and compensation being ordered by the Fair Work Commission. There are strict deadlines that apply to unfair dismissal claims so it is important that anybody considering lodging an unfair dismissal claim gets the advice and guidance needed to successfully navigate the dispute. Anderson Legal provides expert advice and guidance with respect to unfair dismissal claims.

Do you need personalised legal advice or representation about a workplace investigation involving you?

If you are facing allegations and have questions relating to a workplace investigation or a related issue, obtaining early and authoritative advice may be essential to protecting your rights and legal interests. Andrew Anderson has experience in assisting individuals to deal with issues arising with respect to workplace investigations.

If you need to contact Anderson Legal, you can call the firm on (07) 3505 7070. Alternatively, you can complete our form and we will try to contact you.

Get informed about issues affecting you. View here.

This firm helps clients across Queensland. Learn more.