Know Your Rights: A Guide to Employee Rights During HR Investigations

February 21, 2023

As an employee, it is important to understand your rights when faced with an HR investigation. Knowing your rights can help you defend yourself from any unfair treatment and give you the confidence of a secure working environment. 

This guide will provide you with a comprehensive overview of your rights, including what you can expect from an HR investigation, the rights you have during the investigation, and what to do if you feel you are being treated unfairly. This guide will ensure that you are fully informed of your rights and can navigate the HR process with confidence.

Overview of HR Investigations

Human resources investigations are internal company investigations that are typically prompted by a complaint or concern about employee behavior. HR investigations are used to collect evidence and facts surrounding the complaint, which are then used to determine if any corrective actions are necessary. 

They can also be used to determine if further action such as disciplinary actions, up to and including termination, are necessary. HR investigations may occur when an employee reports another employee for harassment or discrimination, an employee is accused of violating company policies or federal/state law, or any other action that may affect the safety and security of the workplace. 

Depending on the type of investigation, employees may be interviewed and asked to provide documentation such as emails, texts, or witness statements. Investigations may also involve the review of surveillance footage, logs, or employer records.

What Rights Do Employees Have During HR Investigations?

Not very many. Employees are required as part of their employment to participate in and provide information as part of any internal investigation. Since this is an internal process and not a legal proceeding, normal due process rights do not apply.  As an employee, there are several rights that you have during HR investigations. These include but are not limited to:

  • The right to refuse to sign anything: Employers may ask you to sign a document acknowledging your participation in the investigation and your agreement to cooperate with the investigation. You are not required to sign this document. If you are ever asked to sign a document that you do not wish to sign, you can politely decline to sign the document.
  • The right to ask to have a witness present during the investigation: If you feel that the employer’s investigation is unfair, or you feel that you are being treated unfairly during the investigation, you can ask to have a witness present during your interview. Your employer can decline this request.
  • The right to decline to answer questions: You are not required to answer any questions throughout the investigation. You can decline to answer questions from the employer, and you can also decline to answer questions from the person who made the complaint against you. However, there can be downsides to refusing to participate in an investigation.

Expectations of Employees During HR Investigations

During an investigation, you are expected to cooperate with the investigation, provide honest answers, and produce any documents or information requested by the employer. With these obligations in mind, there are a few expectations of employees during HR investigations.

  • You should cooperate fully with an investigation: You should cooperate fully with the investigation and provide any information or documents requested by the employer. If you fail to cooperate with the investigation, it could negatively impact the outcome of the investigation and result in discipline.
  • You should answer honestly during the investigation: You should answer questions honestly during the investigation, and tell the truth about any facts related to the investigation. If you provide false information, it could negatively impact the outcome of the investigation.
  • You should produce documents requested by the employer: You should provide any documents requested by the employer as part of the investigation, such as emails, texts, written notes, and records of company policies. If you refuse to produce any requested documents, it could negatively impact the outcome of the investigation.

What To Do If You Feel Unfairly Treated During an HR Investigation

A lot can happen during the course of an HR investigation. You may feel that the investigation is unfair, or you may feel that you are being treated unfairly during the investigation. If you feel that your employer is treating you unfairly, there are a few things that you can do. 

  • Request a meeting with your manager or HR: You have the right to request a meeting with your manager or HR representative to discuss the investigation. In this meeting, you can respectfully explain your side of the story and ask for any documentation or evidence in your favor.
  • Request a copy of the investigation record: You can request a copy of the investigation record if you want to see the information that is being used in the investigation against you. However, keep in mind that employers are not required to give employees copies of the investigation record.
  • Request a copy of your personnel file: You can request a copy of your personnel file from your employer at any time. Your personnel file contains information such as disciplinary actions and terminations against you, performance reviews, and any other documents relating to your employment.

Employee Rights to Reasonable Accommodations

If you have a disability or special need, you may be entitled to reasonable accommodations from your employer in order to participate in an HR investigation. Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications that are made in the workplace to accommodate people with disabilities. It is important to note that an investigation is not the ideal time to request an accommodation, but if you need one to participate in or understand an investigation, you should request such from your employer. Your employer can request medical documentation to support any request for a reasonable accommodation. 

Rights to Access Investigation Records

Employees have the right to access certain investigation records. If an investigation is conducted against you, the investigation record can include information such as interview notes, written statements, and documents collected as part of the investigation. 

However, an investigation record does not include company documents that are unrelated to the investigation, documents that contain information about other individuals, documents that were created after the investigation was finished, and documents created before the investigation began. 

If you are involved in an investigation, you can request to review the investigation record. However, keep in mind that employers are not required to give you a copy of the investigation record if the investigation resulted in no disciplinary action against you.

Rights to Privacy and Confidentiality

During an investigation, your employer may ask you to sign a confidentiality agreement. This is a document that obliges you to keep all details of the investigation a secret. But keep in mind that confidentiality agreements have limitations in certain situations. For example, if you are the victim of discrimination or harassment, you may be required to report it to HR and/or management. 

Rights to Speak With a Lawyer

Throughout the investigation process, most companies will encourage you to speak to your HR representative about the investigation. However, you can request to speak to a lawyer if you believe that you are being treated unfairly or you believe that the investigation is unfair and you want legal advice. 

If you decide to request to speak with a lawyer, you should not speak with HR or anyone else from the company until your lawyer has.


HR investigations can be scary, especially if you are unsure of your rights during the process. It is important to understand that you do have rights during this process, and that these rights can help you defend yourself against any false accusations. During an HR investigation, an employer may request that you hand over certain written documentation or electronic communications. 

Employers are not allowed to ask you for certain information, such as personal passwords, log-ins, or confidential health records. These rights to privacy and confidentiality help to defend you against false accusations and can make it more difficult for an employer to prove misconduct. During any form of the disciplinary process, employees have the right to appeal any decisions made against them

At Freeburg & Granieri, APC, we are here to provide you with excellent service. An attorney with at least ten years of litigation and trial expertise will be handling and supervising your case. 
Throughout the duration of your case, you will be able to speak freely with your legal representative. Ultimately, we will make your problem our problem. Book a free consultation today!


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