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  Network54  >>  Group 4: Firing Employees Based on Conduct Outside of Work


Group 4: Firing Employees Based on Conduct Outside of Work

Instructions: Discuss your views, opinions, and supporting arguments on the issue of firing employees based on their conduct outside of work. Support your comments with your experiences, values and supporting arguments from readings and research. Post a minumum of three messages each week to your discussion (from Tuesday to following Tuesday), and try to reply to other's comments and questions. After you've discussed a range of viewpoints, compare and contrast views and arguments to establish a common ground.

Click here to read about the different ways you can contribute to a group discussion. For other help, email Allan Jeong.



If a company is harmed they must be allowed to act
by

To me the issue of whether or not someone can be dismissed for conduct occurring outside the workplace deals with two questions - does the individual's actions impact his/her ability to perform their job and do their actions harm the corporation.

I believe that when individual's actions, including those occuring outside of work, impact their performance the company should be able to take action. For example, if an employee has a rough weekend (a wee bit to much to drink) and comes to work unable to function (but not drunk)I believe that the employer should have a right to dismiss this employee if their lack of performance caused harm to the corporation. Now, whether or not a company would actually let someone go for this type of infraction is open to debate. However, if a company is paying someone to perform a service and the employee willfully does something which impairs their ability to perform said service shouldn't the company be able to take action.

Consider it in these terms - if a supplier does not meet its obligations should a company be forced to continue purchasing goods/services from the supplier. I think that most would argue that the company has no such obligation. I think that the same standard should apply to employees, even if the event impairing the employees ability to perform is the result of something occuring outside of the workplace.

Let me know what you all think.

Posted on Nov 20, 2000, 2:54 PM

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Agree with impairment of function; maybe not on actions
by

I agree that any outside action that impairs the employee's ability to perform the required work gives the company the right to take action.

However, when the issue turns to simply image problems, the answer becomes much fuzzier. I think the considerations are:
1) Does the company truly suffer from the employee's actions?
2) Was the company's desired image clearly conveyed to the employee before such action occurred?
3) How does one relate the damage to the image with the action taken against the employee?

I am particularly interested in views on this last point. What amount of damage merits termination versus other actions? How should we measure "damage" to the company's image? Is it possible?

Posted on Nov 20, 2000, 5:41 PM

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Companies often don't consider damage to moral or productivity
by

By "other actions" I assume you mean a note in someone's file, no merit raise that year, a stern talking-to or something similar?

This is a good question. I think the answer to the first depends on the answer to the second. A company needs to know how it measures damage before it can decide on the level of punishment. The damage I can think of would be damage to profitablility (long-term or short-term), damage to morale, PR nightmares (which later affect profitablility).

Companies often don't consider damage to morale, or how someone's behavior can affect either their job performance or the productivity of those around them. But, back to the main issue, does conduct outside of work affect work performance? I think it can, but only if the line is blurred, like that fireman (?) who was handing out anti-gay literature in or near? the firehouse? I can't remember the details, but he was disciplined. I think he should have been if it was interferring with his coworkers' ability to do their jobs, or if he was handing stuff out in uniform, bad PR for the fire dept. However, if he wanted to do that stuff on his own time away from his job, he should have the right to without being disciplined.

Posted on Nov 25, 2000, 2:36 PM

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I meant "morale" not moral!
by Andrea Schmeichel

Posted on Nov 25, 2000, 2:37 PM

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Who determines what is acceptable conduct?
by

One of the issues with firing empolyees based on their condust outside work is who determines what is an acceptable conduct. There are many gray areas in someone's conduct. It is difficult to determine which actions affect the reputation of the firm to the extent that it is "reasonable" to fire someone and which which actions do not affet the reputation to that extent? Also, will the same parameters be applied to all employees?

Posted on Nov 19, 2000, 4:28 PM

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Anyone have any examples of this from their own experience?
by Andrea Schmeichel

I wonder if unreasonable conduct would be more tolerated in a high-level employee. Actually, now that I think about it, I KNOW that it is.

I used to work at an ad agency, and there was one particular guy who was a brilliant creative person, but a total misogynist. He had a legendary temper, and it would mostly flare up when he was working with a woman, especially if she was below him in the chain of command. I witnessed some of these outbursts, and they were very scary and emotionally abusive. You were never sure if he was going to go from yelling to hitting. Anyway, the company kept telling him "The next time you do this you're fired..." but kept giving him more and more chances because he kept winning awards for them and making the clients happy. He was finally fired, after the 14th such incident.

I know this has nothing to do with conduct OUTSIDE of work, but it is an example of how the same parameters are not applied to all employees.

Posted on Nov 19, 2000, 5:13 PM

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The company has the right to set the standard
by

I believe that the employer has the right to set the guidelines as to what is acceptable behavior. The qualifier in my argument is that these standards must be explicitly stated and the employees must be aware of them to be enforced. An employer should not have the right to say "we have never told you this, but that action was unacceptable. You are fired." However, if the standards are clear, the company has the right to set whatever they desire.

Posted on Nov 20, 2000, 5:34 PM

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I agree with you
by Monica Colom

I agree with you in that if employees are so concerned with conduct outside work, then it should set the guidelines and standards of macceptable and unacceptable conduct and communicate them to the employees.

Posted on Nov 21, 2000, 10:24 AM

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Hmmmmmmm........
by Andrea Schmeichel

Maybe I am splitting hairs here, but can an employer really make employees aware of EVERYTHING that could possibly be unacceptable? I think it is one of those "what a reasonable person would consider unacceptable" that keeps cropping up in judicial rulings.

Posted on Nov 22, 2000, 9:10 PM

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Definition of a reasonable person?
by

OK, that is the standard that keeps popping up in the legal arena. However, I would like to make two points on that: 1) I don't believe the legal scene is necessarily tied to the ethical one, so are we debating legality or ethics of the company? 2) I really dislike the ambiguous term "reasonable person." Only in very clear cases can we agree what that reasonable person would do. Look at the votes in Florida (sorry to bring the election into this) - reasonable people have completely different views. This can happen in any situation.

So, I guess my question is, who decides what the reasonable person is? And do we want the courts to be the ones deciding for us?

Posted on Nov 26, 2000, 10:55 AM

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Always gotta ask the hard questions...
by

You're right, though, I was getting too caught up in the legal aspects. We should leave that behind if ethics is our only consideration.

My short answer to your questions is no, we don't want the courts deciding, and companies shouldn't be trying to just toe the legal line, although it is something they need to consider when making decisions.

But, if our argument is that companies can only fire employees for conduct outside of work if the employee was aware that this conduct was not kosher according to company policy, I return to my original question, how can a company possibly forsee all improper conduct?

Posted on Nov 26, 2000, 5:17 PM

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Employers have a right to protect their corporate image
by

I believe that employers have the right to take action against employees for conduct occurring outside the workplace. For example, if an employee makes racially incensitive comments outside the office which causes harm to the corporation's reputuation then I believe that the corporation has the right to take action against the employee. That said, I do not believe that companies should be able to use this as a means to discrimate against individuals who do not share their beliefs. Rather, I believe that the corporation needs to demonstrate that it has been harmed by the employees conduct prior to taking action.

Posted on Nov 16, 2000, 1:36 PM

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Some employers may take this too far
by

I agree with Kevin that employers have a responsibility to protect their corporate image and something that an employee does outside of work can have a profound effect on the corporation. Who was the sportscaster that was caught in a compromising S & M situation? Anyway, couldn't have looked too good for the network. I think this is particularly true for so-called public figures, such as TV personalities, CEOs and spokespeople. I think Seagrams dropped Bruce Willis after he received some bad PR.

However, I also believe that employers could easily use this as an excuse to dump employees that "embarass" them or do things they don't agree with. Some examples might be a line worker that likes to cross-dress, or a gay attorney. The conduct outside of work has nothing to do with his/her job performance but I would bet some employers would jump at the chance to fire these employees. This brings to light an interesting question. If important clients of a law firm had a problem working with a gay attorney and refused to let her take their case, is that grounds for dismissal due to the lost revenue and future unproductive relationship? I say no. If the firm hired this attorney in the first place, and she has done a good job for them in the past, they have no right to let her go because of a bigoted client. Sometimes money needs to take a back seat to doing the right thing.

Another question: Should an employer fire an employee for making racist comments outside the workplace even if it has no effect on the company? For example, if "Bob" is involved in an Aryan supremicist group on his own time (and everybody knows it) but is otherwise a good employee? My opinion is no, he should not be let go, however heinous his views may be. The only time the company should consider firing him is if it harms other employees or hinders productivity. And this is a very touchy subject, because legal issues come into play.

Posted on Nov 18, 2000, 11:37 PM

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Racism can be a good reason to fire someone
by

Andrea you brought up a good point. In terms of racism it gets particularly difficult to draw a line between what is sufficient to fire someone and what not. Even though the company might not be harmed, is it right to employ someone who for example beats other people up in his sparetime, because they have a different skin color? Is firing this person part of the company's social responsibility?

In Germany for instance it is. If you belong to a Neo-Nazisitc group and your employer finds out, you will be fired. The legal justification is (a bit simplified) that employing Neo-Nazis can strongly damage the company's relations with partners from foreign countries.

As you see from a legal point of view this is not easy to justify. Nevertheless in the same situation I would fire this person too.

P.S. Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Austria...(see banner on top)

Posted on Nov 19, 2000, 2:13 PM

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"I'll be back..."
by Andrea Schmeichel

Did somebody bring up Arnold, or was it in a banner ad? I haven't seen that one, I'll look out for it. It seems like no matter how many times it is mentioned, people still keep thinking he is German. (I'm assuming that is what you are referring to.) People are so unable to see beyond their own noses...

By the way, anyone else think it is bizarre that there are banner ads on a Web site used for "educational purposes"? I suppose that is an entirely other ethical topic.

Anyway, I'm glad you brought Germany into this discussion, Wolfgang, because it brings up some interesting discussion points we can comment on. Given German history, I can see how the government and companies would be extremely sensitive to how they are perceived in the global community, and watch carefully any Neo-Nazi activity. One could make the same case for the U.S. and our slavery history. We could argue that government and firms should do the same thing for similar reasons.

But, for better or worse, the U.S. is all about the Individual Right To (Fill in the Blank), whereas Germany is more of a social welfare kind of environment. I was in Nürnberg this summer on an internship, and had an interesting discussion with my landlord, who is a doctor. He believes that sometimes Germany is too tolerant of those who don't want to work, and the system will support them longer than he thinks it ought to, very comfortably. But then again, we both agreed that the U.S. doesn't do enough for it's disadvantaged people. But, I digress.

I think it is hard for U.S. companies to do the right thing (firing a racially violent employee) because of the fear of legal retaliation.

Posted on Nov 19, 2000, 5:05 PM

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Racism can be a good reason to fire someone
by

Andrea you brought up a good point. I believe that in terms of racism it gets particularly difficult to draw a line between what is sufficient to fire someone and what not. Even though the company might not be harmed, is it right to employ someone who for example beats other people up in his sparetime, because they have a different skin color? Is firing this person part of the company's social responsibility?

In Germany for instance it is. If you belong to a Neo-Nazisitc group and your employer finds out, you will be fired. The legal justification is (a bit simplified) that employing Neo-Nazis can strongly damage the company's relations with partners from foreign countries.

As you see from a legal point of view this is not easy to justify. Nevertheless in the same situation I would fire this person too.

P.S. Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Austria...(see banner on top)

Posted on Nov 19, 2000, 2:15 PM

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When does protecting the image begin?
by

In light of the argument that a corporation has the right to protect its image through employee practices, the question I have is "when does this right begin?" It seems to me that a point could be made for hiring only people with certain beliefs. If the company has the right to protect its image, then they should be able to refrain from any action that could hurt that image, such as hiring people with beliefs that don't mesh with the company's desired image.

Posted on Nov 20, 2000, 5:31 PM

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What sort of beliefs are we talking about?
by

I think a majority of personal views aren't "knowable" in the interview process, and only become apparent once a person begins to work for a firm.

Posted on Nov 22, 2000, 9:08 PM

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Beliefs aren't evident, but can be uncovered
by

You are right that these beliefs don't become apparent until after employment. My point was, if it is okay for the company to fire someone for those beliefs, should it then also be okay for them to attempt to uncover those beliefs before hiring? Is it acceptable to ask "do you belong to any race supremist groups?" on a job application, and consequently not hire that person, if that person could be fired later for said membership?

Posted on Nov 26, 2000, 10:59 AM

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Not okay to uncover beliefs in an interview
by

I think attempting to uncover beliefs in a job interview is NOT okay, because it leads to discrimination. And how incredibly boring to work in a place with people who all think alike.

I stand by my original opinion, that co.'s can only fire if it interferes with productivity in some way, e.g. if the employee is harassing other employees.

Posted on Nov 26, 2000, 5:20 PM

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First message
by Wolfgang Batt

hey guys!

Just wanted to check if that thing here works.
To do my duty: I would fire people for racism.

Posted on Nov 15, 2000, 8:52 AM

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