I know this may come as a shock to you, but your employees have lives outside of the office. While most are able to keep their work life and their home life separate, there are a few employees whose home life/online persona brings up some red flags. It is important to understand the laws of your state to know if disciplinary actions can be taken if you feel like an employee has crossed a line outside of work.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Many states have laws prohibiting employers from taking disciplinary actions against employees for engaging in lawful off-duty activities. This includes drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco products, carrying a firearm or gambling.
Employees can be disciplined if their lawful off-duty behavior carries over into the workday. They can also get into trouble if one of their lawful activities is directly in contrast with their employer’s mission. An example of this would be an employee of the American Lung Association caught smoking.
Social media is constantly changing; companies are just trying to keep up. While you may be tempted to discipline an employee for something they said or posted on social media, you first need to make sure it is not covered under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Anything that falls under the protected concerted activity, such as posting about your wages or working conditions, is protected.
While it may seem obvious that an employer can prevent you from taking another job, this is not the case. An employer can only ban an employee from working a second job if that job makes them less productive or they are working for a direct competitor. Employers can, however, prevent employees from using company property for outside activities, such as a second job.
Employers are allowed to expect their employees to comply with company policy while off-duty if they can claim legitimate business reasons. Not complying with their employer’s sexual harassment policy while outside of the workplace can still be means for disciplinary actions as this can impact the employer’s business, create a hostile work environment or even violate employment laws.
As you can see, while you may be tempted to dictate that an employee follows the same policies they adhere to while in the office, chances are you can’t. It is important to understand the laws of your state before you take any disciplinary actions for off-duty behavior.