By Drew Smith
October 13, 2014 – The Ray Rice debacle that’s been highlighted in the media in the last week has been raising flags about how out of office behavior can affect job security. In the incident described, Ray Rice allegedly hit his then fiancé and knocked her unconscious. He later was allowed to go to counseling in exchange for the charges being dropped. When it came to his job as the running back for the Baltimore Ravens, however, the NFL gave him a suspension of two games, which was originally seen as fair. When another video surfaced showing more details about the incident, he was cut by his team and then suspended indefinitely by the league under a new domestic violence policy that did not go into effect until after his first suspension.
This demonstrates a growing trend that many employers may have to address. Many employment contracts provide that employees can be terminated for misconduct, and for impairing the reputation or image of the companies they work for. Most workplaces have some leeway in their policy to protect the employer and employee from frivolous lawsuits.
The question now becomes this: if an out of workplace incident is not impacting the performance, productivity or image of the business, can an employee be terminated for such out of work place activity? In the months since the Ray Rice incident at least four players, including Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, have been deactivated or cut because of several incidents including domestic violence. He has been cut and deactivated for the season as more issues have come to light.
The question of out of work behavior is not just limited to jobs that get publicity like the NFL. In social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, saying the wrong thing about a company, a former employee or an event they are attending is no longer private and can cause irreparable harm to a company or to fellow employees. In one example, in March 2013, Adria Richards, a software marketer for the e-mail company, SendGrid, was fired because on her account, she outed one of her co-workers who was making sexual comments during a presentation. In this case the developer was also fired for his comments but in the world we live in, something like this can go viral in an instant.
Most workplaces now face the issue of how to deal with employees for in and out of office conduct and most companies are not consistent with their policies. Companies should develop specific written standards for in office behavior and out of office behavior that may affect their employment. Further companies must consistently enforce their policies among all employees. A properly structured employment practices liability insurance policy can be used as a risk management tool in conjunction with a company’s consistently applied polices.
About Axis Insurance Services, LLC
Axis Insurance Services, LLC (AIS) is a licensed professional liability insurance broker located in Franklin Lakes, NJ with agents licensed nationwide. They offer access to high-quality insurance products in the areas of Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O), Directors and Officers liability insurance (D&O), Crime, Fiduciary, and Privacy/Network security coverage for today’s professional service firms. AIS works with all company types including commercial real estate firms, real estate agents and brokers, property managers, insurance agents, medical groups, practice managers, third party administrators, lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers and many others.
Axis Insurance Services Inc., is not affiliated with Axis Insurance Company or its subsidiaries or affiliates in any way.
Please note that the above information does not constitute any legal advice. You should consult your attorney prior to implementing any employment related policies and procedures for your company.