CAHR19 Speaker Spotlight: Interview with Allison West

In the #MeToo and #TimesUp era, companies rely on HR’s ability to assess credibility during internal investigations – but assessing credibility, like much of our work in human resources, is easier said than done. At the 2019 California HR Conference, speaker Allison West will bring clarity and tools to HR professionals at her Tuesday session, When No Witnesses Are Around: Tips for Assessing Credibility. Get the inside scoop on Allison West’s session in our CAHR19 Speaker Spotlight!

This interview is brought to you by Darlene Cohen, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, an official #CAHR19 writer. Darlene is Chief HR Strategist with HR On Call Solutions. Darlene’s interviews with CAHR19 Speakers feature key questions from an HR perspective to help you find the sessions and speakers that will best serve you and your HR career. We’re thrilled to have Darlene on the team – let’s give her a warm welcome! (Learn more about Darlene below.)


Written by Darlene Cohen

Featuring Allison West, Esq., SHRM-SCP, SPHR

Allison West at CAHR19
Allison West, Esq., SHRM-SCP, SPHR is an attorney and HR Guru known for her expertise on delivering interactive discussion-based training, conducting workplace investigations, delivering 1:1 sensitivity training, and providing expert witness testimony. She is also a popular speaker on everything HR. Allison has been a frequent speaker at CAHR for over ten years, and is one of my favorite speakers. Her sessions fill up fast to full capacity. Months after every conference, everyone is continuing to share her stories and program nuggets.


I’ll always remember attending her session on “Seven Steps for Creating Bulletproof Documentation” where she passed out yellow cards with “You Must Be Kidding.” Allison recognizes the needs of HR professionals and those bright yellow cards were an immediate hit. During her session, everyone would repeat the phrase while holding up the card in agreement. It was as if we were at a rally, cheering Allison on – but it was actually Allison, at the podium, cheering us on as she shared her knowledge and engaging HR stories with us. Seventy-five minutes with Allison is worth every minute and those minutes go by quickly, but you leave smarter, stronger, and armed with new compliant tools in your toolbox.

Allison’s new program for CAHR19 is No Witnesses? No Problem! Tips for Assessing Credibility to Make Sound Findings. I spoke with her earlier this month about this program and here are her thoughts on making credibility determinations.

CAHR19: Where do we start when making credibility determinations?

Allison West: I believe conducting an investigation is not a search for the truth. The goal is to figure out what happened, to follow the facts.  The truth – can be a red herring.  Investigators need to think about credibility determinations through the interview. Investigators also need to think about their own credibility and ask: Is there bias? Am I the right investigator?

CAHR19: What does it mean to make “findings” at the end of the investigation?

AW: Our job as investigators is to determine by a preponderance of the evidence whether it more likely than not that the conduct occurred.  In other words, we weigh the evidence and credibility by 51%.

Under California law, we need to make sure that each side – the complainant and subject are given a full opportunity to be heard. The investigator must weigh the evidence looking at each person’s perspective.

CAHR19: What are the critical factors involved in credibility determinations?

AW: During the session, I will share details regarding credibility determination criteria such as:

  • Plausibility
  • Motive
  • Collaboration
  • Past Record

CAHR19: What are your thoughts on how witness credibility is determined and why are credibility determinations important?

AW: Credibility assessments are critical and take place throughout the interview and investigation. The key is to not reach a credibility finding until after the investigation is concluded and you are making findings. You don’t want to be biased and you need all of the facts to put things into context.

CAHR19: Are considerations appropriately applied to cultural, social or ethnic biases?

AW: Everybody has their own truth, and it doesn’t mean they are lying. For example, two people are looking at Betty.  One sees a blue dress, and the other considers it a green dress. People interpret things in their way. We need to make sure to ask enough questions that we can sort through biases and understand context.

CAHR19: What are the three key takeaways from your CAHR19 session for HR practitioners?

AW: The first is to understand the credibility factors to consider. I encourage everyone come to my session to get the other takeaways!

Thank you so much for your time, Allison. HR friends, join me at CAHR19 for Allison West’s session on Tuesday, August 27 from 2:00pm – 3:15pm, where you will find me engaged and nodding in appreciation!

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Written by Darlene Cohen


Darlene Cohen, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is Chief HR Strategist with HR On Call Solutions. As PIHRA VP of Professional Development from 2014-2018, Darlene was instrumental in curating HR sessions at the 2015-2018 California HR Conferences.

A SHRM Certified Professional and certified Senior Professional in Human Resources, Darlene earned her Bachelor Degree in human resources management and organizational management, and earned a Master’s Degree in organizational leadership from Nichols College.

Darlene blogs on LinkedIn and you can also follow her on Twitter. Darlene is an esteemed member of the #CAHR19 Writers Coalition, covering the 2019 California HR Conference in Long Beach. Register today to join us August 25-28 for HR best practices and California fun!