Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Don’t ignore common sense when conducting workplace investigations


Light night, I tuned in with curiosity for Bob Costas’s interview with Jerry Sandusky. That curiosity turned to stunned outrage when Sandusky made the following admission (among others): “I shouldn't have showered with those kids.” Of course, I have outrage as a parent and as a human being. That outrage has existed since this story broke. After last night’s public relations debacle, I also now have outrage as an attorney.

There are many teachable lessons for employers from last night’s primetime drubbing. For example, Sandusky’s lawyers, PR people, and other handlers deserve to be fired for letting their client appear so unprepared and so guilty. I’m also curious about whether Sandusky waived any 5th Amendment rights by making public statements about the crimes with which he has been charged (but I’ll leave that issue for my criminal brethren).

Here’s the employment law takeaway: when you are assessing credibility—for example, during a harassment or other workplace investigation—you do not check your common sense at the door. In fact, common sense serves as your best friend. If you eat meat you are not a vegetarian, and if you shower naked with little boys, you are a pedophile—case closed. To argue any differently borders on the ludicrous. Anyone who watched last night’s interview can only reach the conclusion that Sandusky is guilty of the charges levied against him.

Do not ignore your common sense. “I did not inhale” = I smoked pot. “I have horsed around with kids I have showered after workouts” = I am a pedophile. Keep these examples in the front of your mind during your next workplace investigation.

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