Sexual Misconduct: Anatomy of an Outside Investigation

by Julia Cardi

In ideal circumstances, companies have a culture where sexual misconduct doesn’t happen at all. When that’s not the case, the next best situation would be for employees to always feel they can come forward to report harassment and trust the company to take their allegations seriously without fear of retaliation.

But ongoing investigations into sexual misconduct at Ohio State University and CBS show a company handling an internal investigation itself isn’t always the best path for a fair and independent investigation. Attorneys with expertise in corporate investigations weigh in on the “anatomy” of such probes: How to make sure an outside attorney is truly independent, the benefits of a women-led probe into sexual misconduct and how #MeToo has affected the instances of companies appointing outside attorneys.

Stefan Stein, a member of Sherman & Howard’s litigation, trial and appeals practice group, said even appointing an outside attorney to conduct an investigation doesn’t necessarily guarantee they are truly independent. In investigations that involve high-level employees, it may be smartest for companies to hire a firm that is not their usual outside counsel.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the August 13, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.