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Conducting Workplace Investigations: Honest Belief Rule and Avoiding Pretextual Discrimination Claims

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Recorded event now available

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This CLE course will address company investigations of disputed workplace events and the use of the honest belief rule. The panel will discuss recent cases that clarify how employers can utilize the rule to assure that the investigation results are respected and upheld. The panel will guide practitioners on how to conduct investigations to avoid potential pretextual discrimination.


Employers must consider that unlawful discrimination and retaliation claims can arise in the treatment of individuals. In either case, employers should undertake reasonable investigations and exercise due diligence before implementing a decision that impacts an individual's employment.

When investigating workplace misconduct, employers should know that if an employee has a "reasonable belief" that the conduct they are objecting to is unlawful or discriminatory, an employer can still be found liable for retaliation if it takes action against the employee--even if the challenged conduct is ultimately found non-discriminatory. In other words, the employee could be wrong about the discrimination complaint, but the employer can still be liable for retaliating against the employee for complaining. On the other hand, an employer might be found not to have violated an employment law if it "honestly believes" an employee has engaged in inappropriate activity.

Recent cases have concluded that some employers have engaged in pretextual discrimination and misapplied what is commonly referred to as the "honest belief rule." There have been conflicting decisions as the courts have to balance the competing policy considerations of employees being deterred from filing discrimination actions versus employers being held powerless to discipline employees for filing false charges, lying to investigators, and possibly defaming others with false claims.

Employers should also remember to retain consistent records of all personnel decisions and ensure that decision-makers remain neutral.

Listen as our experienced panel discusses workplace investigations, the use of the honest belief rule, and how recent decisions may affect employers. The panel will address the best practices for mitigating potential discrimination claims.



  1. Workplace investigations
  2. Honest belief rule defined
  3. Recent cases
  4. Best practices


The panel will address these and other key topics:

  • How does the honest belief rule apply in workplace investigations?
  • What can be learned from recent decisions regarding pretextual discrimination claims?
  • What best practices can employers implement to avoid discrimination claims in "honest belief" cases?


Priscilla Hapner
Priscilla Hapner

Office of Priscilla Hapner

Ms. Hapner has over 25 years of experience in advising and representing management in organizations of all sizes in the...  |  Read More

Hyman, Jonathan T.
Jonathan T. Hyman

Wickens Herzer Panza

Mr. Hyman focuses his practice on management-side labor and employment law, providing businesses proactive solutions to...  |  Read More

Mesco, Christina
Christina Hynes Mesco

Of Counsel
The Prinz Law Firm

Ms. Mesco offers expert guidance to clients with employment law and business-related needs. She frequently negotiates,...  |  Read More

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