The scandal surrounding the recent firing of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice has a lot in common with the average workplace controversy. Mr. Rice was dismissed on April 3 amid public outrage over video footage of him manhandling players and insulting them with anti-gay slurs; he ultimately reached a $475,000 settlement with Rutgers.

Steven W. Suflas, a Ballard Spahr labor and employment partner based in New Jersey, said that one important lesson that employers can learn from Mr. Rice’s firing is to conduct a prompt, thorough, and effective investigation. In this case, the initial discipline Rutgers proposed after its investigation—a fine and a suspension—may not have been sufficient, he said.

“It appears that all the key factual issues were developed, but in terms of effectiveness, that’s apparently where the process broke down,” Mr. Suflas said. “I think they responded in a timely fashion, but the remedial steps that were taken at that time in retrospect were not enough and were not commensurate with the facts that were uncovered.”

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