Workplace Investigations 101: Investigate before firing, for goodness’ sake

There are certainly occasions to shoot first and ask questions later in relation to employee misconduct, particularly in the era of #MeToo. There are also good reasons for an employer to “lock down” employees and quash gossip when important investigations are ongoing. For an employer in Alberta, a bit of patience in both would have gone a long way.

Alisha Garnett was an employee with the Alberta Motor Association. In September 2014, the Alberta government began investigating allegations of forgery in the office.

Garnett was told by the AMA’s director, Kreg Loewen, not to disclose any details of the investigation to staff members. Loewen told her this included her direct supervisor.

Garnett was diligent. She didn’t provide any details, and when asked, told staff members she could not discuss it. Even when a co-worker pressured Garnett for the information, she resisted.

Then Garnett left on vacation.

While she was away, her supervisor sent two emails to Loewen accusing Garnett of telling the team (a) details of the investigation and (b) that they were “in trouble” and the government was investigating. The supervisor also made accusations about alleged complaints regarding Garnett’s leadership skills and decision-making.

Two days after Garnett returned, the supervisor sent another email to Loewen, stating that Garnett had admitted telling the team “everything she knew.”