Not long ago, workplace investigations might have centered mostly on verbal exchanges. These may have been memorialized in near contemporary notes, but often were supported by little more than hearsay and overheard statements. In such cases, the investigator had to untangle conflicting accountsand changing memories, determine the exact contents of a statement, put the statement into context, and/or determine if it was even made in the first place. Frequently this boiled down to an evaluation of “he said/she said.”
With the explosive growth of email, Instant Messaging (IM), and text messages, and the blurring of work and personal computer usage, alleged acts or statements made in the workplace are now usually evidenced by direct or hearsay digital communications. Investigators frequently face situations where employees have printed out and brought specific messages to the attention of their employer’s Human Resources department, supervisors, or union representatives. Acts of harassment or intimidation can be recorded “in real time” by employees communicating to each other (and sending pictures) by email, IM or text messages, as well as Facebook or Twitter. Ironically, the existence of such digital evidence can make investigations even more difficult, raising issues of authenticity, privacy, and spoliation. Far from resolving the old “he said/she said” conflict with concrete evidence, the collection, preservation, and use of digital statements can make the investigator’s task even more difficult.

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