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While building a life and making a living in Pennsylvania, employees may find themselves summoned by HR for an internal investigation. Rattled nerves can lead employees to incriminate themselves or otherwise slip up.

Knowing what to do and say (and what not to do and say) helps employees protect their rights. Here are some tips on proper employee conduct during an investigation.

Recognize an accusation for what it is

Employees accused of white collar crime or other wrongdoings need to remember that an accusation is only a claim. The HR representative may not have solid evidence to build a case. No matter the accusation, HR has an obligation to investigate it. Something else to bear in mind is that HR investigators have to act as neutral third parties; that means employees are not automatically villains for their part in the investigation.

Work to stay calm

Accused employees have to do everything they can to stay calm. Overreacting could backfire and make the HR representative unnecessarily suspicious. Expressing surface emotions of shock is okay, as such feelings are natural under such circumstances. In any case, complete cooperation is a good idea.

Understand employee rights

Throughout an investigation, accused individuals have to bear in mind that they are at-will employees. That means termination, suspension or disciplinary action at any time for any reason is okay. Sadly, at-will employment also means an employer does not have to have a reason for taking disciplinary action against an employee, all without incurring legal backlash. Workers should consider whether they are members of a protected class.

Know that the workplace is not the police station

Facing an accusation can feel a lot like going to the police station for questioning. Unfortunately, Miranda rights do not apply in a workplace setting. That means employees cannot exercise their right to remain silent to avoid incriminating themselves, nor do they have the right to have an attorney present while facing an accusation.