Could HR solve...? Dirty Dancing

Two bosses accuse an employee of theft without conducting an investigation

The problem

Hotel owners Max and Neil Kellerman suspect their lead dancer and entertainer, Johnny Castle, of theft. In what should have been a private conversation, the pair share their suspicions with hotel guests and – without conducting an investigation – declare Castle guilty. But what HR processes should they have followed?

The solution

Theft is a serious accusation to make, and can destroy employees’ trust in the organisation, says Gayatri Panda, HR business partner at Themis Technologies. The Kellermans did not consider the negative repercussions when accusing Castle of theft, she says: “Despite the presence of an alibi and an eyewitness, they dishonestly declared him as guilty. This leaves them open to litigation.”

And while the owners have a legal right to launch an investigation, the enquiry must demonstrate fairness and impartiality, Panda points out.

The Kellermans should also have appointed either an in-house member of staff or an external investigator, as per the hotel’s HR policy. “If the evidence demonstrates Max and Neil’s suspicions to be groundless, then the situation should be dismissed, and Johnny should be informed accordingly,” she says. “And if required, he must be provided with the evidence that presented the grounds for suspicion.”

Panda notes that if the investigation proves the suspicion to be true, Johnny should be invited for an interview as part of the process of fairness and impartiality, and offered the opportunity to present his side.