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Structured investigation

You may need to start a structured investigation for cases of possible abusive conduct that are of a serious and complex nature. In this case, it is important that the investigator is knowledgeable and impartial. On this page you will find information about the procedures involved when conducting a structured investigation as well as other information to keep in mind when investigating a case of possible abusive conduct.

Contents on this page:

Before the investigation begins

If speaking to the individuals concerned is insufficient in the event of possible abusive conduct, you may need to start a structured investigation. Carefully consider who a suitable investigator would be. The investigator needs to be knowledgeable about the current legislation on victimisation and harassment, impartial and capable of handling any privacy conflicts. They need to be analytical and able to engage both with the parties concerned and potential witnesses in a friendly but professional manner. No personal ties may exist between the investigator and the individuals concerned.

After appointing an investigator, the next step is to inform those concerned that you have done so, who it is and what the investigation entails. You also need to give the document Information if you are involved in an investigation on abusive conduct to the individuals concerned.

Read and download Information if you are involved in an investigation on abusive conduct (in Swedish) (Word 112 kB, new tab)

You are to inform employees that they

  • are welcome to have a union representative or another support person present at all of the meetings concerning the investigation. The support person may not be personally involved or a witness in the investigation.
  • can naturally get help through the Occupational Health Service or procured suppliers.

You are to inform students that they

  • are welcome to have a students’ union representative or another support person present at all of the meetings concerning the investigation. The support person may not be personally involved or a witness in the investigation. 
  • can naturally turn to the Student Health Centre for support.

You are also to provide the investigator with all of the relevant information you have.

Procedures for conducting a structured investigation

Below is a description of the procedures for conducting a structured investigation. The steps are given in chronological order.

1. Open an investigation case in the document registration system if the investigation is extensive or if someone else is the administrator for the abusive conduct case.

The first thing the investigator is to do is open an investigation case in the document registration system if they deem that the investigation will be extensive with a great deal of material or if anyone other than the investigator is the administrator for the abusive conduct case.

All the written-up meeting minutes and evidentiary documentation in the investigation (emails, screenshots, etc.) are to be registered and stored together in the investigation case. Failing to do so entails a risk of the abusive conduct case becoming disorganised.

Read more about document registration and confidentiality

2. Speak to the individuals concerned.

The investigator is to hold individual interviews with those concerned, in other words the person who feels targeted and the person who is perceived as targeting the other person. Ensure that the interviews are held at a secluded, quiet and, if possible, neutral location. 

Without any preconceived notions on the part of the investigator, the aim of the interviews is to determine what has happened. Both parties are to be given the opportunity to give their version of events, and they may add supplementary information regarding any witnesses as well as documentation to support their version.

The interviews are to be documented in minutes. Those concerned are to be allowed to read the written-up minutes from their own interviews and provide supplementary written information in a separate document. The investigator, however, is in charge of the minutes and the individuals concerned may only provide supplementary information based on their view of the interview. Both the minutes and any supplements are to be registered in the investigation case.

3. Speak to any witnesses.

The investigator’s next step is to speak to any witnesses. A secluded, quiet and neutral location is recommended in this case as well. Speak to the individuals specified as witnesses and ask them to describe their perception of what happened. Document and register the interviews in the same way as with the individuals concerned in the case.

4. Gather other facts.

The investigator is to gather any other facts needed to investigate the case. These could include, for example, guidelines, procedures, emails or other necessary documentation. This material can sometimes lead to follow-up questions for the individuals concerned or the witnesses.

5. Get an overall picture of the course of events.

The investigator is subsequently to obtain an overall picture of the course of events based on the available information. The individuals concerned are to be given an opportunity to address any new information that arises during the investigation about them or the course of events.

The overall picture can uncover any questions that have not been answered. The investigator needs to investigate the questions further if they are significant to the course of events and the assessment of whether the conduct constitutes victimisation or harassment in the legal sense. This step also needs to be registered.

6. Analyse and assess the material.

The investigator must now decide whether they can at least determine what the likely course of events was and whether it is possible to obtain additional information on the events. There might not be any more material to collect, and in that case the investigator has to use what is already available. It is not always possible to determine what likely happened.

Based on the likely course of events, the investigator then assesses whether what happened could be deemed as victimisation, harassment or sexual harassment. Does the documentation contain information pointing to factors in the organisational or social work environment that may have affected the course of events? If so, these are to be noted and included in the report that will be produced.

If the investigator is unable to determine what happened with at least a reasonable degree of likelihood, they will not be able to assess which type of abusive conduct the case pertains to. In this case, the information is to be stated in the report.

More information about the key concepts and definitions of abusive conduct

7. Write a report.

The investigator is to write a report that clearly describes the investigation, the investigator’s reasoning and the results of the investigation. Understanding how the investigator reached their conclusions is to be simple. Consult with some form of support such as a SFAD-ccoordinator (coordinates the work aimed at the systematic prevention of discrimination) or an HR officer. The report for the investigation is to be registered in both the abusive conduct case and the investigation case.

The report is to begin with an objective description of

  • what led to the investigation
  • who ordered the investigation
  • who conducted the investigation
  • who shared information and when.

The report is also to contain a section that defines the specific type of abusive conduct in question and clarification of which of the University’s guidelines are significant for the conduct. One example might be the Work Environment Policy.

The report should be concluded with a summary and an assessment of the situation being investigated. The investigator can also specify here if they noted anything in the work environment that the manager needs to know about, for example if unclear roles have resulted in conflicts that in turn have led to possible abusive conduct.

Concrete recommendations are, however, to be avoided unless the investigator is very knowledgeable about work environment issues or the employer’s role. Any recommendations must be of a general nature since the investigator does not have full insight into all aspects of the workplace and because there is a risk of faulty advice causing damage. With appropriate support, it is the manager’s responsibility to produce measures aimed at improving the work environment.

Download a copy of the report template (Word 116 kB, new tab)

8. Share your findings with the manager who ordered the investigation and potentially with the individuals concerned.

The final step involves the investigator sharing their findings and conclusions with the manager who ordered the investigation and then handing over the report. It can sometimes be a good idea for the investigator and the manager to jointly share the findings with the individuals concerned. This gives the individuals concerned the opportunity to ask the investigator questions about the report. The manager is responsible for communicating what will happen going forward as well as any measures that will be implemented.

The individuals concerned may have opinions about the investigation in terms of the content of the report, how the investigation was conducted and the conclusions that were drawn. The investigator needs to be prepared for this. Consequently, they need to be certain of their work and able to clarify in a respectful manner.

Important things to consider during the investigation

The investigator has to be aware of how they interact with the people they encounter during the investigation. The process can be very emotional for both the individual who feels targeted and the individual who has been accused. They might share information that is not directly connected to the investigation or the conduct, and the investigator has to take in the information. Make certain that the individuals concerned have received the document Information if you are involved in an investigation on abusive conduct, which can be downloaded above. Remind the people that you speak with that what is said during the investigation will be written down and registered.

If anyone decides not to stand behind something they said during an interview, all of the material is to be disregarded. The investigator will not be able to use the documentation during the investigation.

Engaging with someone who has been subjected to behaviour that can be perceived as sexual harassment

Sexuality and sex are sensitive topics for a great many people. They may be associated with shame and guilt and pertain to perceived expectations from others in terms of how someone should be. These expectations can be difficult for an individual to handle. 

No matter what has happened, the manager is always to offer support during the entire process to both the individual who feels targeted and the individual who has been accused. Employees can seek assistance from the Occupational Health Service, which can also refer them to treatment functions if necessary. Students should be encouraged to seek assistance from the Student Health Centre. The organisation cannot make an appointment for students. The Student Health Centre can also refer students to other types of support. The national healthcare service, faith communities and other support functions outside the University are also available.

Sexual harassment is something that generally arouses strong feelings. It is therefore important that the investigator proceeds with caution. The behaviour can also arouse strong feelings on the part of the investigator personally, for example if it awakens memories from their own experience or because they are affected by the individual who feels targeted. It is thus especially important that the interview with the individuals concerned is not rushed and that the investigator is capable of listening without judging and remaining neutral and objective.

Depending on what has transpired, it might be prudent for the investigator not to be the same gender as the individual being accused. It can be extremely difficult to talk about sexual harassment if the person listening is too reminiscent of the individual being accused.

It is important to remember that this is not a criminal investigation – the Police will take care of any investigations of that nature. The investigator is not to probe into sensitive details but is rather to gather as much information as necessary to gain a reasonable understanding of

  • what happened
  • if it was unwelcome
  • if it was of a sexual nature
  • if the accused individual understood or should have understood that the conduct was abusive.

Investigating harassment connected to the grounds of discrimination

Investigating harassment connected to the grounds of discrimination can also be a sensitive issue. For this reason, the same consideration should be used as when investigating sexual harassment.

It is commonly the case that the incident that prompted the person to tell the manager about it is one of many. A person who is targeted based on one of the grounds of discrimination has generally been targeted previously, both by people in their sphere and by strangers, during all or a large part of their life. Doing harm does not need to be the intention; it suffices that the person constantly feels pointed out as deviating from the norm for the situation to be difficult to bear in the long run.

Attend to those concerned and ensure they gain access to the support they need.