Off Duty Conduct and Discipline

We have heard horror stories of employees whose bad behaviour while off duty has somehow cast a bad image on either themselves or their employer. Ever wondered how to handle this in your workplace?

The Human Resources Professionals Association recently had a speaker on the topic of Off Duty Conduct and Discipline.  The presenter was Cody Yorke of Rudner MacDonald LLP, she was very entertaining and the lessons should be shared with my readers:

  • Have a written policy manual that describes what is “acceptable” and “not acceptable” behaviour, both on and off duty.
  • Be as specific as possible and make sure the employee signs an acknowledgement that they have read and received the policies.
  • Particularly important are policies regarding the use of social media and company technology, harassment and bullying, “disparaging behaviour” (saying bad things about the employer or coworkers), public relations, and the disciplinary process that you will use to deal with these infractions.
  • Supervisors and your management team must use and enforce those policies and follow any steps in the discipline process consistently with all employees.

If you are made aware of an Employee’s “improper” off-duty conduct, you should first refer to your policies for directions. Most times, what the Employee does on their own time is their own business. But, if one or more of the following are true in your circumstance, you may have a “just cause” termination.

  1. Does the behaviour render the person unable to successfully perform their duties? (i.e. someone who drives for work loses their licence for drunk driving)
  2. Does this conduct interfere with the company’s ability to manage their workforce or operations?
  3. Does the conduct lead to a refusal or reluctance of other workers to work with this person?
  4. Does the conduct harm the general reputation of the Employer, their product(s)/service(s) or other Employees?

Being able to discipline for off duty conduct hinges on the investigation.  Make sure you thoroughly check out all the points above, preferably using a third-party investigation (police, private investigator or other person qualified in workplace conduct investigations).  Document everything – get written statements from affected Employees and/or customers, police reports, etc. as needed to support the claims being made.

If the Employer can clearly demonstrate the impact, then there is much less chance of the terminated Employee being successful in a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal.