Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Breaches of confidentiality during internal investigations chill future reports of workplace misconduct

"Nothing you share will be attributed to you and your feedback will remain anonymous."

That's what an HR consultant advised employees of BrewDog prior to their participation in an anonymous workplace culture review of the international brewing company.

Kate Bernot reports at Good Beer Hunting, however, that at least one former employee who participated discovered that her personal information was provided to company leadership.
Charlotte Cook says her name and details of conversations about her time at BrewDog—which focused on workplace safety, problems with human resources, and the circumstances under which she left the company—were provided by [HR consultant] Wiser to BrewDog without her knowledge or consent.

The brewery has been under fire for the past year regarding allegations of a toxic workplace culture that started with an open letter published by 336 former employees criticizing the company's sexist and misogynistic treatment of employees, and also included a highly publicized BBC documentary released earlier this year.

If this leak is true, it's bad. Really bad. 

Employees must have confidence that if they complain about harassment or other workplace issues their identity will remain as anonymous as reasonably possible. And if you promise reasonable confidentiality, you better mean it and do everything possible to ensure it. 

If confidentiality is breached, employees will fear retaliation or other reprisals and future complaints will be chilled. That is no way to run a workplace … unless you don't want to know about harassment and other issues or you want to punish those who bring them your attention … which is also no way to run a workplace and is a much deeper problem.