What is an Internal Investigation, and Why is it Crucial for Your Organization?

what is an internal investigation

How you handle allegations of misconduct and compliance gaps can determine whether your company thrives through adversity – or ends up with legal issues and lost trust.

That’s why it is important to conduct a timely, unbiased internal investigation when these issues arise. Guided by experienced investigators, a formal investigation can identify patterns related to workplace concerns, mitigate broader legal issues, and implement any needed corrective actions.

Recognizing When an Internal Investigation is Needed

Before diving into the process, it helps to recognize situations where an internal investigation serves a vital purpose:

Addressing Whistleblower Complaints

Employees may surface concerns about violations of policies or laws through formal whistleblower complaints. These types of complaints potentially offer an early warning that policies may have been violated or laws broken. How leadership responds sets the tone for trust and accountability moving forward.

Exploring Harassment and Discrimination Claims

Interpersonal issues, wrongful termination accusations, hostile leadership allegations, or general HR disputes carry legal gravity. Objective investigations not only reveal where policies fall short, but they also signal a commitment to equitable, ethical workplaces.

Managing Emerging Litigation Threats

Getting ahead of legal disputes before complaints formally materialize allows you to prepare. In all these cases, internal investigations establish facts to guide appropriate corrective actions. The investigation itself signals how seriously leadership takes governance, compliance, and trust.

Core Benefits of Conducting an Internal Investigation

Beyond addressing specific incidents, internal investigations deliver advantages that bolster your broader risk management and strategic resilience, including:

  • Pinpointing Needed Policy Updates: Investigations can uncover where protocols have failed, fallen short, or lacked clarity. Their findings directly targeted improvements around rules, training, and oversight.
  • Supporting Settlement Negotiations: Should regulatory action or lawsuits emerge, having conducted unbiased, transparent investigations may strengthen your position at the bargaining table.
  • Reinforcing Culture: A track record of thoroughly investigating issues calms stakeholders and nurtures employee loyalty. It’s proof that rules apply equally to all levels.

In essence, well-run investigations can cause catastrophe when an issue emerges. They surface the information necessary to act early on.

Walking Through the Internal Investigation Process

While varying by industry and issue, common phases occur in almost all internal investigations. Here’s a brief overview of what to expect:

  1. Planning Investigation Scope and Methodology — We define specific questions/issues needing answers, identify involved parties and documents, outline retrieval procedures, and map out efficient sequencing.
  2. Interviewing Employees and Witnesses — We speak with those directly involved or possessing contextual knowledge to help determine whether allegations have substance.
  3. Gathering Physical Evidence and Documentation — We review emails, contracts, video footage, activity logs, and other records to construct a timeline and paper trail of events.
  4. Analyzing Findings and Connecting Dots — By methodically sifting through assembled information, we pinpoint what lapses, violations, or offenses did or did not occur and enable recommendations around appropriate responses.
  5. Reporting Conclusions and Corrective Actions — Investigation findings require clear communication to compliance bodies, leadership and potentially broader dissemination. We help you define policy changes, training, controls, or staffing actions needed to curb risk and prevent recurrence.

Why Finding the Right Partner Matters

A poorly run investigation brings its own set of risks so companies must exercise great care in choosing counsel to lead investigations. Beyond avoiding common pitfalls, seasoned investigators lend more credibility if findings reach regulators or courts. Their methodology withstands scrutiny.

Impartial third-party insight from our experienced professionals at The Norfus Firm also shields against blindspots. With over 20 years as an employment lawyer and Human Resources expert, our firm’s founder, Natalie Norfus, lends objective credibility that carries real weight and confers trust that any issue is handled properly, discreetly, and thoroughly.

Our firm is known for quick yet organized and high-quality internal investigations upholding the highest ethical and methodological standards. Our strategic legal perspective and connections help contain damage so you can return focus to customers and growth. Most importantly, we offer leaders sage guidance at every fork in the road.

If your organization is facing potential misconduct or governance gaps, don’t go it alone. Lean on Natalie Norfus and The Norfus Firm early when internal investigations carry lower stakes. We deliver clarity when you need it most, with experience spanning hundreds of sensitive workplace investigations. Reach out today to learn more.

Author Bio


Natalie E. Norfus is the Founder and Managing Owner of The Norfus Firm. With nearly 20 years of experience as a labor and employment attorney and HR/DEI practitioner, Natalie is known for her creative problem-solving skills. She specializes in partnering with employers to develop effective DEI and HR strategies, conducting thorough internal investigations, and providing coaching and training to senior leaders and Boards of Directors.

Throughout her career, Natalie has held various significant roles in HR and DEI. She has served as the Chief Diversity Officer for multi-billion-dollar brands, where she was responsible for shaping the vision of each brand’s DEI initiatives. She has also worked as outside counsel in large law firms and in-house before establishing her own firm.

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