Off-duty misconduct

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
Employers who are informed of an employee's misconduct that takes place outside of work can generally choose to react in three ways. They can choose to keep the employee, especially if the allegations are minor, suspend the person without pay until all charges are resolved, or terminate the worker. Before any decision is made, responsible employers should first determine if the employee's off-the-job misconduct is affecting job performance. If the case isn't so, employers should normally respect the privacy rights of its employees and not pursue the matter. On the other hand, if job performance is shown to be adversely affected by off-duty misconduct, employers should then conduct a complete investigation to obtain all the facts and allow the employee a chance to tell his or her side of the story. Generally, the disciplinary actions that employers take should reflect the severity of the misconduct. Situations where allegations prove to be of a serious nature, such as a felony-related incident, may leave an employer with no choice but to terminate the employee. However, before firing the employee, companies should be certain of the facts surrounding the misconduct and be absolutely clear about whether or not the misconduct affects work performance. Failure to do so on both ends can result in a wrongful termination or defamation lawsuit, especially if the charges turn out to be unfounded or the accounts of the misconduct untrue. Employers may also be exposed to an unemployment compensation claim, as off-duty misconduct can sometimes prove to be insufficient evidence in disqualifying a discharged employee from receiving unemployment benefits.

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