What to Expect In the First Investigative Interview

Let me preface by saying, the information presented comes from my experiences while enduring dual cases of discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation in both Federal and State courts against my employer between 2002-2006 ( 9 defendants 1-10 John Does under the umbrella of a public school district).  Because the initial interview can seem more casual and conversational, you need to be prepared.  The interviewer will appear to be concerned. Remember they are on a fishing trip! Here are some things you need you need to know.

  • The interview is for their benefit.
  • The interviewer will more than likely try to get talk about more than the complaint.
  • The interviewer’s body language will be open and caring.
  • The location of the initial interview is strategic.  It is in a place where the interviewer feels most comfortable not you the complainant.
  • The environment of the room is set up to present a feeling of empathy, compassion, and professionalism. The setting may look much like mine, a conference room with a table and chairs with place settings for you the complainant and the interviewer.  A box of Kleenex strategically placed near the interviewer within your eyesight, but not your reach at the onset of the meeting. This way the interviewer can gently slide the box over to you when you appear tearful.
  • Directly in front of the interviewer there more than likely will be a notepad (legal paper)  with a  list of prepared questions. You will not be able to see the questions from where you are setting.  Some questions have not even been written down. The questions being asked will more than likely be open-ended questions and on a notepad or other device.  Below you find sample statements to the complainant, respondent, and witnesses in the initial interview. The trigger words and phrases are in bold print.

TO (YOU) THE COMPLAINANT FROM THE ASSIGNED INVESTIGATOR:   

  • “Hello, I want you to know I am sorry we have to meet under these conditions.  However, I want you to know we take your allegations seriously and I am here to investigate your allegation of possible violations.”
  • “I am here to investigate your accusations of a possible violation of our harassment policy. “
  • “What can we do to make this right? We know we didn’t handle the situation correctly. Let’s  discuss this and see what we can do it about it.”
  •  “I am a neutral party.”
  • “I am here to gather information. “
  • “I will try not to make you feel uncomfortable.”
  • “I will be taking notes.”
  • “When we are done, I will provide you with a statement for you to check for accuracy and sign.
  • “You have the right not to be retaliated against for bringing your complaint forward.”
  • “If you experience anything you would consider retaliation, please tell me right away.”
  • “ I want to keep this confidential, so  I am asking you not to discuss this matter.”

TO THE RESPONDENT:

*Note the setting for the Respondent will more than likely not be the same setting as the Complainant.  It may be similar to mine where the Interviewer selects a place where that is visible to the Complainant.  (Strategic move of intimidation in schools.)

  •  “ I am here to investigate an allegation that you violated our harassment policy. I want to get to a complete response from you.”
  • “You have a right to know and respond to each allegation, but not find out who made the complaint.” ( This is usually violated when dealing with school administrators.)
  • “ You have a duty not to retaliate against anyone for bringing a complaint forward or participating in an investigation.”

TO THE WITNESS OR WITNESSES MAY BE ASKED THIS:

*Note the setting for the Witness or Witnesses will more than likely not be the same setting as the Complainant.  It may be similar to mine where the Interviewer selects a place where that is visible to the Complainant.  (Strategic move of intimidation in schools.)

  • “I am here to investigate an allegation of possible violation of our harassment policy. You are not alleged to have done anything wrong; however, you may have some relevant information about the allegations.
  • I will be taking notes.
  • When we are done, I will provide you with a statement for you to check for accuracy and sign.
  •  I want to keep this confidential, so  I am asking you not to discuss this matter.
  • “I know this is difficult; please try not to speculate about who made the allegation or what the allegations are.”
  • “If you experience anything you would consider retaliation, please tell me right away.”
  • “I want to keep this confidential, so I am asking you not to discuss this matter.”

Lorna Stremcha is the author of two books, an award-winning educator, coach, an advocate against workplace and school bullying. Sexual harassment and domestic violence also top her list. She is a registered speaker for Bullying Police USA and one of the first eleven individuals to co-author the Healthy Workplace Act in the United States. She is a contributing author of the world-famous e-book, What Every Target of Workplace Bullying needs to Know. https://www.amazon.com/author/lstremcha

Lorna’s first book, Lose the Baggage, Lose the Weight a woman-to-woman recipe for life, helps readers use their own life experiences to create positive change. Her second book, Bravery, Bullies & Blowhards lessons learned in a Montana classroom is a frank and eye-opening look inside the Montana educational system.  As a Life Coach, Lorna shares her professional and life lessons with others to help them live a healthier life. Her goal is to encourage people to “Thrive not just Survive.”  Mentoring is the name of the game. Plan!  Love!  Live!

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