With California under a stay-at-home order and our physical offices temporarily closed, PII’s team has transitioned to conducting business largely by video conference. We now gather remotely for weekly staff meetings and hold case management meetings over Zoom.
While it is new for our staff to interact with each other this way, conducting investigations by video conference or by phone has been part of our practice for some time, depending on the needs of our clients.
This has been especially true in our campus investigations involving student complaints under Title IX. In many of these cases, key witnesses are studying abroad, and in-person interviews are not feasible. PII has conducted such long-distance interviews by Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and other platforms, navigating different time zones and other challenges. These interviews often involve sensitive topics and difficult experiences.
In another project dating back to an era when video conferences were not in everyday use, PII investigated approximately 100 complaints brought by customers of a national restaurant chain, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. These complaints focused on allegations of racially discriminatory treatment. PII’s team interviewed the restaurants’ customers, line employees, and managers, sometimes in Spanish, all by telephone.
Although there are advantages to meeting face-to-face, the need for social distancing has put that practice on hold for now. Drawing on our skills and past experiences, PII’s investigators have learned to make witnesses comfortable, develop rapport, and assess credibility – whether we are talking to them in person or via technology.
For as long as necessary, we got this!
Watch for our future blog on tips for conducting effective interviews by video conferencing.