Dealing With Off Duty Employee Conduct: What Can You Do About It?

Imagine that you’ve been provided evidence that your company’s sales manager is dating a sales rep of your company’s biggest competitor. Or that your company bookkeeper has a bottle-of-scotch-a-day drinking habit after work.  Can you fire these workers-or at least ask them to change their behavior-without getting hit with a discrimination or privacy lawsuit?
Here’s the litmus test: If an employee’s off-duty activity puts your company in legal or financial jeopardy, courts will be more willing to let you regulate it.  But disciplining staff for participating in lawful conduct outside of work is a slippery slope.
While federal law is silent on the issue, states aren’t. So far, 30 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employers from discriminating against workers because they smoke or participate in other “lawful activities.”
Four Ways That You & Your Company Avoid Trouble:
1. Focus on the off-duty behavior’s effects on job performance, rather than the conduct itself. Be able to point to a legitimate business reason for discipline.
2. Avoid blanket restrictions against socializing with competitors.  Such overly broad rules infringe on privacy. Instead, protect company secrets by having employees sign nondisclosure agreements.
3. Check your state’s rules and seek legal advice before firing or disciplining an employee for off-duty activity.
4. Apply an even hand. Don’t suspend one employee for off-work behavior and then ignore another similar circumstance.
For more information on how your company can deal with employee conduct concerns or other employee administration issues, contact LL Roberts HR Department (toll free) at 877.878.6463
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