Ethics Hotline Investigation

In a perfect world, no one would have to use your ethics hotline to report misconduct or suspicious unethical behavior. But the reality is that when you have an ethics hotline in place, you can expect customers, vendors, employees, and visitors alike to use it. Now, how you handle those anonymous reports will determine if, in fact, a violation has taken place. Today, we’re discussing what happens during the investigation process, so you can find valuable insights in developing yours.

The Goal of an Ethics Hotline Investigation

Not every report that comes into your ethics hotline will have adverse consequences. However, every report should be deemed a valid concern that leads to an investigation. Reports must be taken seriously or, over time, personnel will stop submitting them. It’s during these investigations that you’ll look to uncover the validity of the claim. Once you’ve verified the facts, you can take steps to remedy the situation and prevent any future occurrences. The two key factors of any investigation are to maintain anonymity, if desired and allowed by law, and follow consistent procedures.

Typical Steps to Follow During an Ethics Hotline Investigation

Every business model is different. However, most ethics hotline investigation processes follow similar steps:

· Fielding the initial complaint: As part of your ethics hotline, you’ll want to be sure to collect all the necessary information. This includes who or what the complaint is about, what misconduct is alleged, how and when it happened, along with dates and/or other details.

· Ensuring confidentiality: An ethics hotline claim investigation should be kept strictly confidential throughout its entirety. Not maintaining anonymity or confidentiality can open your company up to other risks, including reputational damage, liability in court, or retaliation.

· Issuing interim protections: The investigation process should also include provisions that maintain the claimant’s protection throughout the investigation. This may include allowing a leave of absence or a schedule change.

· Identifying a primary investigator: Choose a competent individual to spearhead the investigation without bias and with past investigative skills.

· Conducting the investigation: The investigation itself will usually consist of carefully conducted interviews, thorough research, and assertive documentation.

· Sharing guidance and recommendations: Once the details have been compiled, the investigator will share the findings with management and key stakeholders. It is then the responsibility of the management team to make determinations and proactively carry out the remedy.

FAQs About Ethics Hotline Investigations

Consider reviewing these common questions about ethics hotline investigations for quick-reference answers to guide your efforts.

How long does the average ethics hotline investigation take?

Depending on your process and the specifics of the report, your investigation process could realistically take up to six months to conduct to completion.

Are ethics hotlines anonymous?

Yes, where they are allowed by law. Ethics hotlines are often designed to be anonymous, removing any fear or concern of reporting retaliation. And it’s just one of many reasons why ethics hotlines continue to be effective in today’s dynamic business environment.

When you’re ready to explore the many business advantages of an ethics hotline, let Ethical Advocate help! We can walk you through every detailed step, from initial setup to developing your investigation processes. Call our team with your ethics hotline questions, and let’s get your company set up for ethical success in 2024!