An employee is paid to do their job during the hours they are at work. Even if an employee is on-call, they are normally still “at work”. However, there are some things that happen outside the workplace that could cause employment problems.
Because the range of human behaviour is limited only by our imagination, it is hard to describe a “bright line” that conduct outside the workplace must not cross. In general, there are two reasons that conduct outside the workplace could cause employment problems:
- When an employee does something that impacts on their ability to do their work, or
- When an employee does something that damages the trust and confidence in that employment relationship.
Some real-life examples of conduct outside the workplace that crosses the line are:
- A worker was dismissed for smoking cannabis during their lunch break.
- Several employees were dismissed for drinking at lunchtime, in breach of a well-known policy in that workplace.
- An employee in a position of trust was dismissed following a conviction of supplying cannabis.
- A bank teller was dismissed following a fraud conviction.
- Employees have been dismissed for social media posts that are abusive towards their employer.
- A salesperson was involved in a fight at a pub. Although the fight happened during a private visit, the pub told the employer that “if something was not done” about the employee, they would not sell the employer’s product anymore. The employer dismissed the employee, and this as held to be justified.
- An investment banker was dismissed after he was convicted of a serious assault which happened while he was not at work, but there was considerable publicity which included the employer.
Everyone is entitled to reasonable privacy and there are limits on what an employer can do about things that happen away from work. The most important question that the Court will ask is whether in all the circumstances of something that an employee does outside of the workplace, a fair and reasonable employer could take disciplinary action against that employee.
Members of the Armed Forces are subject to different rules, and normally are subject to a heightened obligations even when they are away from the workplace.
If you think that you could be having employment problems with something that has happened outside the workplace, it is important that you get advice early. This will give you the best chance of resolving issues quickly. Contact Frontline Law for a free initial consultation.
*The information in this blog post is general in nature, is not legal advice, and should not be relied on without speaking to a lawyer about your specific situation.