Handling the unacceptable behavior of an employee during work time and on-site is hard enough. However, sometimes employees' behavior and actions after-hours or off-site impact the company or other employees. What steps can you take?
It is a myth that you cannot take action based on an employee's off-the-clock behavior. If it impacts your business, clients, other employees or reputation, you may have the ability—and sometimes the obligation—to discipline accordingly.
Although most of your employment policies only cover working time, there are several critical policies that also cover off-hours behavior, most importantly:
- Non-harassment, non-sexual harassment, non-discrimination and non-retaliation
- Substance use and abuse
- Confidentiality or non-disclosure
- Workplace violence
Common situations include:
1) An employee making unacceptable advances or comments to another employee during an after-hours gathering for happy hour. Even though this is a voluntary event not sponsored or organized by the company, the victim has protections under the sexual harassment policy.
If the harassed party makes a complaint or if a third party mentions the unacceptable behavior, management must investigate and take action so that the harassed person feels safe. The discipline may not be as harsh as if it happened on-site, but a warning at least may be warranted.
If the accused is a manager, investigating and taking action is even more necessary because the liability will fall on the company, whether or not the incident takes place during work time.
2) An employee using marijuana legally over the weekend but then failing a random drug test on Monday. The legalization of marijuana has created issues when it comes to drafting and implementing employment policies. Since marijuana shows up as a positive result for much longer than the employee is under the influence of the drug, it is hard to know when and how to discipline.
In some situations, you may need to witness several side effects of the employee being under the influence regardless of the drug test result. In others, any positive result is grounds for termination.
If you find yourself in a situation like these, contact Affinity HR Group, a Big "I" Hires partner, to help walk you through what you can and can't do.