Responsibilities of Supervisors/Managers, Senior Executives & the BC Public Service Agency for Conducting Human Resource Investigations
This resource is an appendix of the Accountability Framework for Human Resource Management.
Last updated March 27, 2018
The purpose of this appendix is to establish a clear allocation of responsibility among supervisors/managers, senior executives in line ministries, and the BC Public Service Agency (PSA) for conducting human resource investigations to ensure investigations:
- Are conducted in accordance with the principles of administrative fairness;
- Have a clearly articulated scope and focus, both of which are reassessed on a regular basis; and
- Have appropriate lines of reporting and a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities.
Overview of the Investigative Process
Supervisors/managers are required to notify the PSA after being made aware of allegations of employee misconduct that, if confirmed, may result in discipline. Once the Agency has been informed, a PSA representative will review the allegations with the manager to determine if an investigation is required.
Where the issue is determined to be relatively minor, the PSA will support the manager in addressing the matter without need for the PSA to be directly involved in any investigation or review that may be conducted. Where the issue involves allegations of serious misconduct, the PSA must either lead the investigation or approve the lead investigator. The process for conducting an investigation then proceeds as follows:
- Appointment of the investigative team;
- Gathering of evidence by the investigators, including interviews with individuals relevant to the case (complainant, respondent and other witnesses), and the review of any relevant documents; and
- Assessment by the investigators of the evidence to make findings of fact and determine whether the findings support or refute the allegations that prompted the investigation.
Once an investigation is concluded, the investigators will report the findings to the appropriate decision-maker in the ministry. The findings will also be shared with an Employee Relations Specialist or Senior Labour Relations Specialist in the Agency, who will analyze the investigative findings and discuss options and recommendations with the decision-maker regarding how best to proceed.
For more detailed information on the investigative process, please refer to the information sheet, Investigations of Employee Misconduct. For more information on roles and responsibilities, please refer to the final section of this appendix.
Investigations of human resource matters must be performed in a manner consistent with the principles of administrative fairness. Principles to be observed include:
The right to be informed: The respondent(s) must be provided with sufficient information regarding the allegations that led to the investigation, and be informed of their rights and responsibilities during the interview process (e.g., confidentiality).
The right to an impartial investigator: The investigation must be conducted in an impartial and objective manner by an individual who is neutral, has no involvement, is not a witness to events, and has no pre-determined hypothesis or outcome in mind.
The right to be heard and present evidence: The respondent(s) must be afforded a full opportunity to respond to any allegations, including the ability to present their version of the facts, identify witnesses and submit documentary evidence.
The right to be accompanied: The respondent(s) must be provided with the opportunity to have a support person or representative with them during interviews (e.g., a union shop steward, a lawyer if an excluded employee, a family member, etc.).
The right to a thorough investigation: The investigators must interview all relevant witnesses (as identified by respondent(s), witnesses or the investigators) and examine all relevant evidence that is uncovered or disclosed during the investigation, including potential alibis, alternate explanations, and/or mitigating circumstances.
The right to respond to all allegations: The respondent(s) has the right to address all allegations that could form the basis of disciplinary action, including any evidence or information provided by another witness that conflicts with the evidence the respondent provided.
The right to a timely conclusion: Investigations must be conducted without unreasonable delay to ensure that the respondent’s rights are not prejudiced as a result of the investigation taking too long.
Confidentiality and retaliation
Employees are expected to treat the complaint, investigation and interviews as strictly confidential. Information obtained during, or commentary about, an investigation, including the outcome, should not be shared with others at the workplace, with the exception of the employee’s union representative, or support person for a non-union employee.
If information about individuals involved in an investigation were disclosed to parties that are not authorized to receive this information it could impact the integrity of the investigation and/or could unfairly cause harm to involved individuals including damage to their professional reputation.
The responsibility to maintain confidentiality in the investigative process derives from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which restricts the disclosure of personal information except where authorized by that Act, and from the Standards of Conduct for BC Public Service Employees, which obliges employees who receive confidential information during the course of their employment to not disclose, release or transmit that information to anyone other than persons who are authorized to receive the information.
No individual should be subject to indirect or direct retaliation as a result of filing a complaint, responding to a complaint or participating in an investigation. Complaints of retaliation will be fully investigated and any retaliation, once confirmed, will be addressed.
Scope & Focus
Scope and focus refers to the parameters of the investigative process that enable the employer to look into the relevant issues of concern. A clear scope and focus is crucial to ensuring all participants in the investigation understand why they are involved and what allegations are being investigated, and to ensuring human and other investigative resources are used efficiently.
Scope and focus are set out in the Terms of Reference established for all investigations of alleged serious misconduct. Specifically, the Terms of Reference:
- Articulate the purpose and scope of the investigation (e.g. to investigate allegations of a breach of the Standards of Conduct);
- Identify the investigative team (typically one investigator from the PSA and a co-investigator from the ministry);
- Identify those responsible for oversight of the investigation (typically a management representative from Employee Relations at the PSA and a senior management representative from the ministry); and
- Establish the authority under which the investigation occurs (e.g., the Public Service Act, Financial Administration Act, provisions of the Core Policy and Procedures Manual, etc.)
Importantly, where the investigators determine that evidence uncovered by the investigation does not fit within the current Terms of Reference, they must discuss such evidence with the oversight team. The oversight team will confer with the investigators and, where deemed necessary, may direct that changes be made to the Terms of Reference to ensure the investigation proceeds based on an accurate articulation of its scope and focus, or that the evidence be disregarded as outside the scope of the investigation. Where deemed out of scope, the oversight team will make a determination regarding whether the evidence requires the employer to conduct a separate review or investigation.
Key Responsibilities of Main Participants in the Investigative Process
The following key responsibilities are provided to ensure clear lines of reporting and delineation of duties among those participating in the investigative process.
Deputy minister of the BC Public Service Agency (also referred to as Agency Head)
- Provide executive oversight of processes established by the BCPSA to conduct human resource investigations; and
- When so requested by the Deputy Minister of the employee being investigated, provide advice regarding the investigation process to aid the ministry in making decisions on how to proceed.
Assistant deputy minister, employee relations, BC Public Service Agency
Assist the deputy minister of the BCPSA with executive oversight of processes established to conduct human resource investigations;
- When so requested by a senior executive of the organization to which the employee being investigated belongs, provide advice regarding the investigation process to aid the ministry in making decisions on how to proceed; and
- Provide direction to the directors and managers in employee relations, and to employee relations specialists and senior labour relations specialists, regarding the performance of their duties.
Deputy minister of employee(s)
Ensure that management employees in their organization are aware of the processes established by the BCPSA to investigate instances of employee misconduct;
- Depending on the severity of the issue under investigation, serve as ministry decision-maker regarding what action, if any, should be taken in response to the investigative findings.
Ministry management representative
In cooperation with the Manager or Director, Employee Relations, provide oversight to the assigned investigators, particularly in relation to ensuring the investigation has an appropriate scope and focus as reflected in the Terms of Reference;
- Depending on the severity of the issue under investigation, serve as ministry decision-maker regarding what action, if any, should be taken in response to the investigative findings; and
- In consultation with an Employee Relations Specialist, communicate the general outcome of the investigation to the complainant(s) and respondent(s) separately.
Managers and directors, employee relations, BC Public Service Agency
- In cooperation with the ministry management representative, provide oversight to the assigned investigators, particularly in relation to ensuring the investigation has an appropriate scope and focus as reflected in the Terms of Reference;
- Provide direction to Employee Relations Specialists regarding the performance of their duties (the Director, Employee Relations, will also provide direction as required to Senior Labour Relations Specialists); and
- Where the ministry management representative serves as decision-maker, and where advice is requested, provide advice regarding the investigation to aid the ministry in making decisions on how to proceed.
Employee relations specialist, BC Public Service Agency / senior labour relations specialist, BC Public Service Agency
At the conclusion of an investigation, receive report from the assigned investigators;
- Analyze investigative findings set out in the report, seek clarification where required from the investigators, and discuss options and recommendations with the ministry decision-maker; and
- Assist the ministry management representative in communicating the general outcome of the investigation to the complainant(s) and respondent(s) separately.
Assigned investigators (BC Public Service Agency representative, ministry representative)
Advise the respondent(s) of the allegations and the possibility of employment consequences if the allegations are substantiated;
- Advise all parties of the requirement to be truthful, to maintain the confidentiality of their evidence, and to not engage in any conduct which could impair an impartial investigation;
- Gather evidence and interview relevant parties about the complaint or concerns before them;
- Ensure the investigation has appropriate Terms of Reference, including a clearly articulated scope and focus, both at the outset of the investigation and on a regular basis thereafter;
- Where matters arise that do not fit within the Terms of Reference, seek out the direction of the oversight team (Manager/Director of Employee Relations, ministry management representative) as to whether amendments to the Terms of Reference may be required, or whether such matters should be disregarded as out of scope; and
- Maintain confidentiality and ensure that the investigation is conducted consistent with the principles of administrative fairness.
Complainants, respondents and witnesses
Participate in investigation meetings when directed to do so;
- Cooperate and be honest and forthright; and
- Respect the privacy of participants and treat matters confidentially.
Supervisors and managers
Notify the BC Public Service Agency promptly after being made aware of allegations of employee misconduct that, if confirmed, may result in discipline;
- Cooperate with the investigation as may be required; and
- Respect the privacy of participants and treat matters confidentially.