Not necessarily. It depends on how good the investigation is. Take the recent case of Castelluccio v. IBM, decided last month by a Connecticut federal court. An employee who had just been separated complained of discrimination. IBM’s internal HR representative conducted an investigation and found no evidence of discrimination. In the subsequent lawsuit, the employee tried to keep the investigation out of evidence before the jury. The court granted his request, finding fault with the investigation, thus mitigating its “probative value.”
What was wrong with the investigation? The court criticized the fact that it was conducted internally, deeming it “one-sided.” The employer would have done better to retain a neutral, outside investigator. The court also took issue with the fact that once the employee signed a severance agreement, the investigation ceased. This was further evidence that the investigation was really not intended to get to the bottom of the discrimination allegation.
Takeaways: consider using outside investigators where appropriate. And make sure all workplace investigations are really intended to ascertain what happened – not merely to foreclose litigation.