How Should I respond?
Question: An employee is requesting copies of their harassment complaint and investigation files. How should I respond?
Answer from Emily, MBA, SPHR: It depends. You can certainly share a copy of the original complaint with the person who filed it. You can also tell them about the general results and let them know whom they should speak to if the harassment continues.
You shouldn’t hand over investigation notes, witness statements, or other documentation. That information was shared with an expectation of confidentiality (at least whenever possible). Sharing would violate that trust and potentially deter employees from participating in future investigations. Likewise, the employee’s complaint shouldn’t be shared with anyone else. This, of course, includes the accused party. Aside from breaking confidence, it could lead to retaliation.
On a related note, since under state law personnel files may have to be provided to employees upon request, it’s best to keep investigation files separate from personnel files. It’s reasonable to include a copy of the general results of an investigation in the personnel file, but don’t include any complaints, investigation notes, or witness statements.
Emily's robust experience overseeing HR in the non-profit, healthcare, and hospitality industries brings valuable knowledge to clients. She graduated college with degrees in Music and Entrepreneurial Business, and her passion for helping and working alongside people led her to the field of HR. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling and home brewing.