People think its not fair that you can get fired for actions outside the workplace. This article is not for those people. This article is for the business owner who comes in on Monday morning only to find that one of her hood-rat employees is on the front page of the newspaper rioting in a company shirt. Not exactly the coverage your company was looking for. Do you fire them? Here’s some things to consider:
1.Is the misconduct illegal and proven in a court of law? No matter how bad it looks, each employee deserves their day in court. Later on in this article, I’ll get to what you can do in the meantime.
2. Is there a connection between the misconduct outside the workplace and this person’s role in the company? Did they use any company assets to misbehave? Did they damage company property or assault company employees, patrons or vendors?
3. Is there a fundamental effect this misconduct might have on the workplace or working relationship with this employee? Did they burn an effigy of the boss in the town square? Did they engage in violence targeted at a protected group prevalent in your workplace?
4. Is this employee in a position of trust or prominence that is undermined by their misconduct? Did your head cashier get caught shoplifting? Did your head of security get caught stalking? Has your head of IT been identified as “the masked bomber”?
5. Did they illegitimately present themselves as acting as a representative of the company? Did they wear their company work shirt to the riot?
Here’s what to do if you want to discipline or fire them:
1. Talk to your HR expert or legal counsel. If none is available, call the agency in charge of applicable labour law. They can at least tell you what part of the law to read, but should not give you advice on what to do.
2. Follow you internal procedures. If you have a company disciplinary policy, follow it.
3. Carefully consider your actions and their impact on the employee and the company. Compassion is a virtue, but so is consideration for your other employees, who will be watching.
4. Remember in most jurisdictions and for most non-union jobs, so long as appropriate notice and/or compensation is made, no advance notice of termination is necessary. No reason need be given in many cases, just whatever required paper work and a severance check or other due compensation.
In the meantime, if you have a hood-rat employee you’d rather not have around, but who is an “unindicted co-conspirator” you might consider the following:
1. Again, refer to your disciplinary policies. Follow them. Again, consult legal counsel or HR if you can.
2. Depending on the employee and how critical they are to the day to day operations of the company, it might be in the best interests of both the employee and company if he/she took a few days off. If they have unused leave, you might encourage them to take it.
3. Depending on how public or widely known within the company the misconduct is, you might want to address it. “Chris has found himself in a situation none of us would wish for ourselves. This company believes in both personal freedom and personal responsibility, and until this situation is judged by the authorities……”
How to deal with the public:
1. No comment won’t get you very far. Start with “we will not discuss individual personnel matters publicly”. Then try “we will address this matter according to the terms of our employment agreement (or company policies).”
2. Be clear, concise and as transparent as you can be without commenting specifically on your employee or their actions. It is never wise to do so, and particularly so in a situation likely charged with emotion and opinion. You cannot win if you go down that road.
3. Cite your company’s core beliefs and fairness in dealing with all employees. Express sympathy and compassion to those effected. Lay no blame, condemn no one.
1. Each employee and each situation is different. Be flexible.
2. Respond to safety concerns. If there is a threat to public or workplace safety if this person is on the job, or not promptly dealt with internally, then immediate action is critical.
3. Keystone support is critical. If you are at risk to lose a key staffer, vendor, or customer; act faster than perhaps you might otherwise.
4. Stay abreast of your legal responsibilities. If you have a situation that requires notification of the authorities, or regulatory issues, by all means, take care of that first.
Above all, act with appropriate force. Make sure your response is proportional to the misconduct and effect on the company.
You have an opportunity to act with fairness and wisdom, make good use of that opportunity.