Off-Duty Conduct: Rights and Responsibilities in the Workplace

Off-Duty Conduct: Rights and Responsibilities in the Workplace

Can an Employee Be Disciplined for Off-Duty Conduct?

There has always been an issue as to whether a person can be disciplined at work for something that they did outside of working hours. However, with an ever-increasing digital world where most have a camera in their pocket at all times via their cellphone, and with the increase in employees working remotely, the line between work time and personal time has been blurred even more.

How Does Off-Duty Conduct Affect the Employment Relationship?

In general, employees are free to do what they wish outside of work hours, provided that their off-duty conduct does not seriously and adversely affect their employer or employer’s reputation.  Employers are always permitted to terminate a worker’s employment without cause at any time, provided the decision to do so is not discriminatory in nature, and the worker is then entitled to a severance package.  However, for an employer to discipline someone or even terminate someone’s employment with cause and without a severance package for off-duty conduct, the person must have engaged in off-duty conduct that so severely damaged the employment relationship that the relationship cannot continue.

How Should Employers Handle Off-Duty Conduct That Affects the Business?

An example of an employee being disciplined for off-duty conduct occurred where a school teacher was engaged in an altercation in a Starbucks that was captured on video.  The school board terminated the teacher’s employment because of the damage to the school’s reputation and the fact that teachers are held to a high standard as those who help guide children.  An independent arbitrator ultimately reduced the punishment to a one-month unpaid suspension, but key takeaway is that the teacher was still severely punished for off-duty conduct because of the severity of the conduct and negative impact on the school board.

How can you seek legal advice and assistance regarding your rights in the workplace?

If you are an employee looking to better understand your rights while off-duty, or if you are an employer seeking more information about how to handle an employee engaging in off-duty conduct your business does not approve of we encourage you to seek legal advice on the matter. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances.  If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

Author – Nasyr Asmi