The interview element of a workplace investigative interview isn’t easy and it can be even more difficult when there are conflicting responses to investigative interview questions. The number of people interviewed can also affect the investigator’s ability to determine credibility. Too few (ie, just the complainant and the subject) and it becomes one person’s word against the other. Too many (ie, multiple witnesses) and some may have conflicting stories due to bias. The EEOC recommends weighing the credibility of each person interviewed in order to find out what actually took place during the incident.
Factors to Consider:
The EEOC has put together a list of 5 factors to consider when trying to determine the credibility of statements and responses made during the interview process. However, it is also important to note that these are “things to consider” and not the “be all, end all” for determining credibility.
1. Inherent Plausibility:
Watch for the presence and order of key facts presented by everyone interviewed.
Is the testimony believable at face value? Does it make sense? Watch for the presence and order of key facts presented by everyone interviewed. You may also want to consult any materials in the workplace that could back up the facts of the story- security videos, whereabouts of the employees in the workplace, timing of events, etc.
Did the person seem to be telling the truth or lying?
3. Motive to Falsify:
Did the person have a reason to lie? Does the person feel threatened for any reason? Bias and opinion can sometimes get in the way of telling the truth. Consider any connections that people have to the incident or to the complainant and the subject. Could these connections cause them to lie because they know their friend will get hurt? Do they fear retaliation from others for being involved in the interview? Address these issues and enforce your zero-tolerance policy when it comes to retaliation in the workplace.
Watch for commonalities or discrepancies in witness stories and the claims made by the complainant and the subject in order to get a better picture of what took place during the incident.
Is there a witness (such as an eye-witnesses, people who saw the person soon after the alleged incidents, or people who discussed the incidents with him or her at around the time that they occurred) or physical evidence (such as written documentation) that validate the party’s testimony? The information gathered from these individuals needs to be weighed and considered for accuracy- if the witnesses have any bias towards either individual involved in the incident, chances are their story will reflect it. Watch for commonalities or discrepancies in witness stories and the claims made by the complainant and the subject in order to get a better picture of what took place during the incident.
5. Past Record:
Did the alleged subject have a history of similar behavior in the past? Many times, past behavior is predictive of future behavior, but is not always the case. It is beneficial to be aware of repeat offenders in the workplace and what conclusions and actions were taken in their previous cases.