Employee Misconduct, Discipline and Terminations
Sooner or later, unless you are exceptionally lucky, you are going to have to deal with the issue of employee misconduct – or, what you believe to be employee misconduct. What is an employer to do? More importantly, how does an employer keep from being sued?
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: anyone can sue anyone, at any time. That old adage remains true even when you have handled employee misconduct, and possibly employment termination situations, correctly. Handling these situations correctly puts you in your best position, if you do ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being sued by a disgruntled current or former employee.
Pennsylvania is an “at-will” state, meaning that, absent a contract stating otherwise, an employer can terminate employees at any time, for any reason or no reason [but not for an illegal reason] without notice. Likewise, employees have the same freedom to quit without reason or notice, at any time. Contrary to what many employers believe, employee misconduct is not necessary to terminate the employment relationship!
Then what is so important about employee misconduct?
For one thing, in Pennsylvania an employee is ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits when an employee engages in “willful misconduct.” (See link to Unemployment Representation) Your understanding of what willful misconduct is, and especially what it is not, and the steps you need to take during the employment relationship, are critical to your management of potentially costly unemployment compensation claims.
Additionally, consistent application of your company’s policies and rules, under the circumstances, can help establish your motive for employee discipline. Disgruntled employees often claim the discipline — especially the ultimate discipline: termination of employment – was motivated by an illegal, discriminatory reason. Your proper handling of employee misconduct issues is therefore essential to your defense.
Need help understanding employee misconduct and the ramifications of not having a “plan of action?”
Give us a call to set up an appointment with Karen Eichman. (484) 734-0378
We’ll help you sort it out!