Many companies hire undercover private investigators to root out employee theft, drug use and other abuses in the workplace. Legally, they can do that. In 2008, the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the firing of an employee after a private investigator proved that the employee abused sick leave. The court said the company had an “honest suspicion” of wrong-doing before hiring the private investigator.
The use of a private investigator has some positive effects: employees are glad to find that the rules apply to everyone and that the employer actually cares about workplace safety and standards. On the other hand, if you are driven to hire an undercover investigator, you clearly have problems with your company culture and have taken only the first step in a long and difficult process of change. Would a great employee want to work for you under those conditions?
A better approach is to change the hiring process to prevent abuses from arising, starting with these four vital steps:
- Investigate potential employees before they are hired. Anyone who lies on a resume or application will continue to abuse your trust after you hire them.
- Make sure that the rules governing drug use, sick time, theft of real or intellectual property or any other workplace abuse are written down and that every employee signs a paper acknowledging receipt of the rules.
- Have formal procedures in place before you confront and possibly fire an employee.
- Conduct exit interviews to find out whether your policies are working and what you can do to retain your most trusted employees.
ARS helps companies with employment advice, investigative services and employee screenings at every stage both before problems escalate and when workplace abuses have to stop—now.
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