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Discipline / Investigations

Flying pocketknife cuts into heart of employer’s policy

01/07/2010

Employers may suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune from time to time. But when knives fly at work, supervisors better know the relevant company policies. Consider the case of an employee at the North Carolina Department of Transportation who was apparently the workplace prankster.

Employee stressed out by possible discipline? That’s no reason to halt the process

01/05/2010

Go figure: Some employees get stressed out when they suspect they’re facing serious discipline or even termination. That understandable anxiety doesn’t mean you have to stop the disciplinary process. Unless the employee asks for FMLA leave or otherwise gives you enough information to indicate that she has a serious health condition—and not just nerves—you can go ahead with your investigation.

Discovered poor work while employee was on military leave? Go ahead and discipline

01/04/2010

Employees returning from military service are entitled to come back to their old jobs, and they have other limited job protections, too. But those protections don’t mean employers can never discipline or demote employees who have been serving in the armed forces. Just make sure you’re doing so for legitimate business reasons, such as documented poor performance.

9th Circuit chief judge escapes porn-at-work punishment

01/04/2010

The Judicial Council of the 3rd Circuit recently released its opinion dismissing a porn-related misconduct case against 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. The complaint, brought by a court administrator, accused Kozinski and two other judges of disabling the court’s Internet filters to download illegal pornography and pirated music without being detected.

What’s the law on hiring a private eye to check for workers’ comp fraud?

01/01/2010

Q. We suspect one of our employees has filed a fraudulent workers’ compensation claim. We would like to hire a private investigator to gather information on the worker’s activities. What laws would govern that decision?

Griddlegate: Pancakes, French toast sweetened state e-mails

01/01/2010

Gov. Charlie Crist has called for an investigation following allegations that Florida Department of Transportation employees used code words in e-mails referring to the state’s pending high-speed rail program. Some e-mails refer to “pancakes” and “French toast,” apparent code words for aspects of the transit. The suspected reason for the syrupy sleight of hand: to avoid having the e-mails discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Handling an EEOC investigation

01/01/2010

Q. A former employee recently filed a complaint against my company with the EEOC. He is alleging race discrimination. As part of its investigation, the EEOC will be coming to our offices to interview employees. Do I have to make these employees available? Can I sit in on the employee interviews?

Sample Policy: Terminations

01/01/2010
The following sample policies were excerpted from The Book of Company Policies, published by HR Specialist. Edit for your organization’s purposes. _____________________ Sample Policy 1: “There are two ways to terminate employment: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary terminations include resignations, retirement, failure to return from leave, failure to report to work for three consecutive days without […]

Don’t know who’s harassing? What to do

12/24/2009

What’s an employer to do when an employee complains of anonymous harassment? You may never be able to figure out who is doing the harassing, but you must still do something—if only to show that your company doesn’t approve. Begin by opening an internal investigation, just as you would for any other complaint.

Firing due to ‘romantic tension’: Is it sex bias?

12/22/2009

When co-worker relationships break up, tensions can boil over in the workplace. Back-stabbing and name-calling may play out in the office—and that may require discipline. When that happens, investigate thoroughly. But watch out for discipline that looks suspiciously like discrimination against just one of the former lovebirds.