Book Review: The Law and Practice of Workplace Investigations

Several times each month, we are pleased to republish a recent book review from the Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR). CLLR is the official journal of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD), and its reviews cover both practice-oriented and academic publications related to the law.

The Law and Practice of Workplace Investigations. By Gillian Shearer. Toronto: Emond, 2016. xvii, 169 p. ISBN: 9781772551082 (softcover) $99.00.

Reviewed by Heather Wylie
Law Librarian
Alberta Law Libraries
In CLLR 43:1

The Law and Practice of Workplace Investigations is a welcome addition to the Emond Professional Employment Law Series, “the only series … devoted to providing employment lawyers, general litigation lawyers, in-house counsel, and human resources professionals with expertly written, practical, and authoritative monographs” (p ix). The series editor, Peter Israel, has consistently been one of Canada’s most recommended employment lawyers. The author, Gillian Shearer, is experienced as an employment lawyer and workplace investigator.

Shearer has covered all the topics you would expect to see in any text on workplace investigation, including the duty to investigate, investigations that go wrong, conduct of an investigation, and investigative techniques. In addition, there is a section on the law of privilege as it applies to investigation reports and notes.

The book covers practical information on conducting investigations and managing the process and people involved. It provides a clear, fully explained, seven-step process for conducting the investigation. Additional issues discussed include confidentiality of the process, remaining unbiased and objective with complainants, and assessing credibility.

This title is also not light on the law. Sections such as “Rules of Conducting the Investigation” and “Consequences of an Investigation Gone Wrong” are well annotated with leading case law, from both administrative tribunals and the courts, where appropriate.

The book is well organized and clearly written. Wherever possible, Shearer presents information using numbered lists and summaries of key points. There are also several useful appendices, including a sample harassment policy, a precedent letter to a complainant, and a precedent letter to a respondent. Most importantly, Shearer recognizes that she isn’t writing for just one audience. Where necessary, she provides primers on the law for the layperson, but avoids the pitfall of over-explaining to the practitioner.

This is a slim volume, but everything in it has a clear purpose. It has a place in the collection of sole practitioners or firms that advise clients in this area of the law. It would also be invaluable for in-house counsel or human resources professionals who are directly involved in conducting workplace investigations, whether or not they have a legal background. It likely wouldn’t be on the top of any acquisitions lists for an academic law library, unless it was being purchased as part of the larger series, as there are other more comprehensive teaching texts that cover this area of the law.

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