KANSAS CITY, MO--(Marketwired - Dec 12, 2013) - With the advent of the Internet and the almost instantaneous dissemination of recordings, postings and pictures, behavior which may have been overlooked or was unknown by an employer 10 years ago is now leading to the termination of employees for out of work behavior. Van Osdol & Magruder, PC, the Biggest Little Law Firm® in Kansas City, recently examined the topic.
Anne-Linton Pond Hendrickson, partner at Van Osdol & Magruder, said, "This issue came to light most recently when a young woman from Iowa who worked at a bank was fired after a video went viral of her jumping into a fountain at a baseball game. The basis of her firing, according to her employer, was that she violated a policy that barred behavior that reflects badly on the bank. This behavior, although a basis for termination, was not a basis for denying her unemployment."
According to the administrative law judge, while this behavior was questionable, it did not rise to the level of substantial, job-related misconduct sufficient to warrant a denial of unemployment benefits. Prior to terminating employees for inappropriate behavior outside of the workplace, employers should consider the following:
1. Do you have a well-defined policy that would prohibit the behavior?
2. Do you have a contract with the employee that would clearly prohibit the behavior?
If employers don't have either of these, they should tread carefully when determining whether discipline or termination is an appropriate response. If an employer has a policy or a contract, he or she should still make sure that the policy doesn't adversely impact people in a protected class. The more discretion you build into the policy, the more an employee may feel like he or she is being unfairly singled out. Union issues, EEO questions and retaliation concerns may play into your decision. If the decision is made to terminate the employee, be aware that the employee may still be entitled to unemployment benefits, which are determined under different criteria.
Van Osdol & Magruder, P.C. is located in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Trademarked as The Biggest Little Law Firm® in Kansas City, the firm focuses on maximizing value for its clients while remaining mindful of legal expenses. Visit the firm's website at www.vomer.com.