Investigate — But Be Careful About Promises!

Chris Kluwe, a former Minnesota Vikings football player, recently announced that he plans to file a lawsuit against his former team if the team does not release the findings of its investigation into claims of discrimination and harassment that he made against his former coach, a special teams coordinator.  The coach came under fire during the 2012 NFL season for allegedly making anti-gay statements.

Kluwe and his attorney claim that the player and the team reached an agreement on the terms of a financial settlement that was to be executed in concert with the release of the investigation report.  The deal appears to have fallen apart, however, because  Kluwe and his attorney reportedly later learned the Vikings might not release the report.

The Vikings made a smart decision by deciding to undertake a thorough investigation. Typically, the results of that investigation are not subject to public disclosure. You never know what you are going to turn up in an investigation (that’s the point!), and it sounds like if the Vikings did make a promise to disclose they may now be having second thoughts.

Let the Vikings’ purported promise serve as a reminder to all employers- tread lightly with your promises!  Train your employees to come forward with concerns as they arise, and take these concerns seriously.  Investigate, but advise participants that while the company will take appropriate action in response to the conclusions of the investigation, the report may not be released and the actions taken (ie discipline) are a personnel matter that may not be discussed publically.