This month’s VM Recommends brings us selections from our San Diego Editor and Paralegal, Antonia Gordon. What are your current book and podcast recommendations? I recently listened to the audiobook of Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll, which was inspired by the first “celebrity” serial killer, Ted Bundy, and is told from the (fictional) perspectives of two women affected by his crimes. I really enjoyed the story as well as the voice acting. It provided an interesting take on the recent surge in popularity of media featuring serial killers and sensationalizing the horrifying acts they committed. The novel did
Continue Reading VM Recommends – San Diego Edition

In the world of investigations, whether it be workplace, campus or Title IX, we often run into situations where two people interpret the same events in wildly different ways.  As human beings, our memories can be subjective, and we are constantly interpreting events through the lens of our own backgrounds and experiences.  In the legal world, everyone is held to the standard of behaving like a “reasonable person.”  Can someone who always makes the best choices and always perceives the world in an accurate way really exist?  The short answer is no.  Everyone perceives the world in a different way
Continue Reading Am I Being Reasonable?  Fourth Scenario

The laws applicable to the operations of public agencies create opportunities to gather evidence and information that are unique to the public sector.  These opportunities can help expedite and focus investigations by narrowing the scope of interview questioning, assisting with establishing timelines, and minimizing the delays associated with document requests or personnel file review.  This blog post discusses two such opportunities and the challenges they can help investigators overcome.1.       Public Meeting Agendas And MinutesOne challenge investigators invariably encounter is the limitations and quirks of human memory. For example, interviewees rarely remember specific dates, but can often roughly estimate when an
Continue Reading Two Handy Tools For Public Sector Investigations (California)

The Morning Show is a ripped-from-the-headlines drama series about Mitch Kessler, a beloved TV anchor, who is fired for sexual misconduct during the MeToo movement. He’s basically Matt Lauer. As a workplace investigator, I was all in. How would the show portray our line of work? Inaccurately, it turns out!When The Morning Show starts, we learn that Kessler was suddenly fired after the network’s Human Resources department conducted an internal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. Companies usually don’t have their internal Human Resources departments perform investigations of high-profile employees. This is due to the perception that Human Resources
Continue Reading The Morning Show: Workplace Investigations

Investigations should be conducted in a thorough, timely, and impartial manner. But what happens when an investigation is not conducted to these standards? As investigators, we frequently learn from the mistakes of other.  The investigative news organization Mother Jones recently published an article on an investigation that had several serious missteps; ‘Independent’ Investigations Into Sexual Abuse Are Big Business. Can Survivors Really Trust Them?”   Senior VM Partner Eli Makus is quoted in the article, explaining that California has specific expectations for investigators conducing a prompt, fair, and thorough investigation.  However, as Eli noted, “Across the country, there’s a lot of
Continue Reading Lessons Learned from Faulty Investigations

This month’s VM Recommends brings us selections from our Sacramento Business Operations Analyst, Emma Newton. What is one of your favorite things to do in SacramentoWalking to the Midtown Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning is one of my favorite things to do in Sacramento. The market takes up four blocks of the Lavender District with local vendors, farmers, food trucks and artists alike. This market is year-round, rain or shine, and is a great representation of the Farm-to-Fork Capital. If you’re lucky, you might even run into a member of the Kings grabbing their groceries for the week.
Continue Reading VM Recommends – Sacramento Edition (Copy)

What is a Skelly?When public employees are facing serious discipline, they are generally entitled to a pre-disciplinary process known as a Skelly Hearing or simply, “Skelly,” during which the employee is permitted to respond to the proposed action.[1]  The Skelly is typically brief and does not include the robust components of a post-disciplinary appeal. Nonetheless, the Skelly provides an important opportunity for the employer to hear the employee’s perspective on the proposed discipline before imposing it.  The Skelly is part of an employee’s due process rights and provides a “common-sense” check on the proposed discipline. It is an
Continue Reading Seeking A Second Opinion: Why Impartial Skelly Officers Matter In Discipline Cases

In the world of investigations, whether it be workplace, campus or Title IX, we often run into situations where two people interpret the same events in wildly different ways.  As human beings, our memories can be subjective, and we are constantly interpreting events through the lens of our own backgrounds and experiences.  In the legal world, everyone is held to the standard of behaving like a “reasonable person.”  Can someone who always makes the best choices and always perceives the world in an accurate way really exist?  The short answer is no.  Everyone perceives the world in a different way
Continue Reading Am I Being Reasonable?

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded protections for whistleblowers under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”).  In February 2024, the Court decided Murray v. UBS Securities, LLC.  It held that a whistleblower does not need to prove that their employer acted with “retaliatory intent” in taking an adverse action against the employee.   For workplace investigators, this decision impacts how we assess the evidence regarding the employer’s motive for the adverse action.  Evidence that previously fell short of demonstrating “retaliatory intent” may now be enough to satisfy the plaintiff’s burden.Sarbanes-Oxley ActIn this case, Research Strategist Trevor Murray sued under the
Continue Reading Landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision Expands Whistleblower Protections in Murray v. UBS Securities, LLC.

This month’s VM Recommends brings us selections from our Sacramento Business Operations Analyst, Emma Newton. What is one of your favorite things to do in SacramentoWalking to the Midtown Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning is one of my favorite things to do in Sacramento. The market takes up four blocks of the Lavender District with local vendors, farmers, food trucks and artists alike. This market is year-round, rain or shine, and is a great representation of the Farm-to-Fork Capital. If you’re lucky, you might even run into a member of the Kings grabbing their groceries for the week.
Continue Reading VM Recommends – Sacramento Edition

At VM, we know workplace investigations. It’s what we do, every day. But we are always retained as external attorney investigators. Conducting an independent investigation as an external attorney investigator can be quite different from conducting an investigation as an internal human resources or compliance professional.We regularly train investigation teams on how to conduct effective internal investigations and we have learned a lot about the differences and similarities in how internal teams approach this work. If you have been internal or worked with internal investigators, you know there can be some striking differences. This reality raises an important question. If
Continue Reading Top Five Similarities and Differences Between Internal and External Investigators: Just the Same, but Different (Copy)

This month’s VM Recommends brings us selections from our Los Angeles Managing Partner, Daphne Pierre Bishop. What is a book you would recommend?I recently read Yellowface, a novel by RF Kuang, and I continue to think about weeks after I finished it. Yellowface tells the story of college friends – a White woman and an Asian woman – who become professional writers and their experiences in the publishing industry. It takes a deep look at the complexity of identity, intra- and inter-group dynamics, and the impacts of various privileges and disadvantages – issues that I think about all
Continue Reading VM Recommends – LA Edition

At VM, we know workplace investigations. It’s what we do, every day. But we are always retained as external attorney investigators. Conducting an independent investigation as an external attorney investigator can be quite different from conducting an investigation as an internal human resources or compliance professional.We regularly train investigation teams on how to conduct effective internal investigations and we have learned a lot about the differences and similarities in how internal teams approach this work. If you have been internal or worked with internal investigators, you know there can be some striking differences. This reality raises an important question. If
Continue Reading Top Five Similarities and Differences Between Internal and External Investigators: Just the Same, but Different

This month’s VM Recommends brings us selections from our 2023 Law Clerk, Olivia Totten. What documentary is important to you?I find the documentary “Paris is Burning” to be compelling. It shares the stories of Black, Latino, gay, and transgender individuals who were part of the 1980s LGBTQ+ ball culture of New York City. As an LGBTQ+ individual, this documentary is an important piece of history to me, and I re-watch it during Pride month.What is your favorite place to get coffee in San Diego?I recommend the coffee shop “Balboa Perk.”  It is a charming, locally owned coffee shop in
Continue Reading VM Recommends – San Diego Edition

Do you have confidence in the skills of each professional in your organization who conducts investigations?  Consider this.It is an ordinary Monday.  You receive notice of a complaint of sexual harassment.  Maybe it is by or against a valuable, high-performing executive.  Maybe it is by or against a one-month employee you are just getting to know.  Either way, yours is a fascinating and challenging job.  Your policy says the complaint must be investigated.  But by who?  Should you direct this investigation to an in-house investigator, or go to a third-party investigator?  Your legal spend is high this year, and the
Continue Reading A Letter to All You Large Employers With An Internal Investigative Team:

It can be a refreshing treat when an investigator gets to jump into an investigation where some evidence has already been gathered, and they have at least some idea what the parties are going to say.  The ultimate fruit of the investigation, the findings, are almost always much easier to reach quickly when there are prior statements to rely upon.  The juicy tidbits of information in prior statements can confine the scope of investigation, streamline interview preparation, highlight key timelines and areas of inquiry, and simply put, make the investigator’s job easier.  But what happens when that evidence might have
Continue Reading Fruit Of The Poisonous Supervisor: Considerations For Considering Statements Taken In Violation Of Weingarten