IRAC and Roll
In the previous 3 posts, we talked about general approaches to good report writing and an 8-segment template for writing reports. The template can be adapted for any kind of investigation.
In this post we look at a methodology for setting out your findings and conclusions, once you have finished gathering all the evidence. It goes by the acronym IRAC, which stands for:
So let’s see how it works, using the fact circumstances we discussed in the previous post, about an allegation of workplace sexual harassment.
While at a hotel bar after a work conference, a senior manager is alleged to have told an intern that she might get a permanent job if she slept with him that night. He also, again while in the bar and again allegedly, massaged her shoulder, made lewd comments about her in front of colleagues and later that evening texted her inappropriate messages.
There was no criminal investigation. You have completed your evidence gathering and set out the facts, using the first 6 segments of the report-writing template.
Now you have to tell the reader what you have concluded, and explain why you have reached that conclusion. Your analysis must include why you have accepted some evidence and rejected other evidence.
What is the issue that is the subject of your report? In this case, it is whether or not an employee was sexually harassed by another employee.
What is the rule that applies to the issue? The rule may be a law, a policy, a protocol and/or a standard, but in some instances the rule could simply be common sense. In this case, the most relevant rule may be the sexual harassment policy of the company, though others may also apply.
This is the interesting – and fun – bit. It is where you set out the facts, then apply the rule to them. As you do that, you develop an answer to the issue, based on the rule.
Trust me, it is not as complicated as it may sound.
So, for example, let’s discuss the evidence in respect of one aspect of the complaint – the alleged lewd remarks. You have already set out the facts in previous segments of your report. Let’s assume they are as follows:
- There is a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workplace.
- This was a work related event.
- The intern said the senior manager said xyz to her, when they were both standing at the bar at such and such a time. She found the remarks – all of a sexual nature – grossly offensive.
- The manager vehemently denied he made any such remarks and alleges that the intern ‘is out to get him’ because she was not offered a permanent job.
- 2 independent witnesses stated they overheard the manager make lewd comments to the intern.
- Each of the independent witnesses gave slightly different versions of what the senior manager said. Their versions of the exact wording both differed somewhat, though not substantively, from what the intern alleged the manager said to her.
- Another witness, a mid-level manager who reports directly to the senior manager, stated that she was certain that she did not hear the manager make any inappropriate comments to the intern, at any point.
- CCTV from the hotel bar confirmed that both independent witnesses were within possible earshot of the conversation when it took place and appeared to be focused on it. The junior manager, though present, was clearly talking to someone else at that point – and yes, you interviewed that person, who doesn’t recall anything at all about that evening.
- It is not possible to ascertain exactly what was said, based on the CCTV footage alone ( maybe you hired a lip reader, without success).
- One bartender did not recall anything and the other refused to speak to you.
As you set out your analysis, discuss how much weight you allot to various pieces of evidence – and why. Explain why you believe that certain bits of evidence are credible and others may not be. Or why you are not sure – either way.
In this instance, you may want to point to the fact that both independent witnesses appear to have no vested interest in the outcome of the investigation. Both were in a position to hear what was said. The minor inconsistencies in their accounts possibly indicate an absence of collusion. For those reasons you are giving significant weight to their accounts.
You will want to give your assessment of what is shown on the CCTV footage, including – potentially – body language and facial expressions. You may want to discuss awareness of – and training in – the sexual harassment policy, insofar as it is relevant to the issue.
You must always deal with evidence that may not support your ultimate conclusion. You can’t just ignore it and hope it will go away. For example, you will have to explain why you choose not to give the evidence of the junior manager the same weight as that obtained from other sources, if that is in fact your position. You will have to set out what you did to explore the senior manager’s allegation that the intern fabricated the complaint, in retaliation for not getting the permanent job.
Remember, you are seeking to persuade your reader that your ultimate conclusion will be based on a fair, thorough and impartial review of all the available evidence.
What is the conclusion that deals with the issue? Did the senior manager make lewd comments to the intern, and did those lewd comments amount to sexual harassment contrary to company policy? Based on the evidence above, it may not be unreasonable to find that he did, based on a balance of probabilities.
Of course not everyone may agree with you – reasonable people can reasonably differ. They can reach dissimilar conclusions, based on the same set of facts. However, as long as you have shown that your conclusions are based on sufficient, reliable, relevant evidence – and you have dealt reasonably with evidence that may not support those conclusions – then you are in an excellent position to defend whatever it is you have concluded.
IRAC Try it – it works!
Report writing is a full day topic in our Investigations Training Suite/ which we are delivering across Canada this winter and spring. The first day covers the Fundamentals of Investigation, the second Investigative Interviewing, the third is devoted to Report Writing and the last two on How to Use the Internet as an Investigative Tool. Participants can pick and choose one or more days, as they please.
Check it out at this link:
As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about anything investigative. Here are our contact details:
Email: email@example.com Phone: 416 704 3517