Some types of employee complaints must be investigated as a matter of law, e.g., sexual harassment complaints. Although no statutes regulate how investigations must be conducted, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Cal. Gov't Code §§12900–12996) requires an employer to take “immediate and appropriate corrective action” when faced with a covered harassment complaint (see Cal. Gov't Code §12940), and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states:
When an employer receives a complaint or otherwise learns of alleged sexual harassment in the workplace, the employer should investigate promptly and thoroughly.
See EEOC’s Policy Guidance on Current Issues of Sexual Harassment dated March 19, 1990, available at www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/currentissues.html.
For myriad business reasons, however, wise employers will investigate all complaints alleging any form of illegal activity or company policy violations. A prompt, thorough, and fair investigation conducted in good faith can insulate an employer from liability for wrongful termination (see Cotran v Rollins Hudig Hall Int’l, Inc. (1998) 17 Cal.4th 93; Silva v Lucky Stores, Inc. (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 256, improve employee morale, and prevent further harassment or discrimination from occurring.