Employees who don’t fit the company’s culture tend to behave in a way that disrupts productivity. Behaviors like discrimination and dishonesty are fireable offenses and create more harm than good, even from the most skilled and highest performers. When this happens, it’s essential for business owners to have concrete procedures and reasons to fire someone.
Here are 15 fireable offenses to maintain productivity in the workplace.
1. Sexual Harassment
Unwelcome sexual behavior is a serious, fireable offense that every company takes seriously. It refers to any uninvited comments, conduct, or behavior regarding sex, gender, or sexual orientation. While this was originally designed to protect women, laws against sexual harassment also ensure that men in the workplace are not pressured into a compromising situation to keep their job. Companies encourage employees to observe proper behavior through mandatory training.
“Sexual abuse is quite serious in nature and can have a devastating impact on employee morale and image of the organization. As an HR [human resources] person, one needs to proactively look for such behaviors. This issue, in some cultures, can be subtle and employees may not feel very comfortable speaking about it to their immediate supervisors.
“HR, being a neutral party, can play an important role by building confidence in employees and also ensuring that such matters surface at earliest. HR can look at deploying multiple strategies like appointing an ombudsperson or holding skip level meetings. In recent times, we are also seeing a trend where this job is outsourced to external agencies, so there is no conflict of interest; it also inspires employees to speak with a neutral party. Exit interviews can also act as a powerful tool to identify these issues.”
―Ravi Solanki, CEO, DigiVerifi Private Limited
2. Excessive Absenteeism
Absenteeism in itself is usually not considered a fireable offense, but frequent and excessive absenteeism is a cause for concern. The issue becomes more about the employee’s attitude than just time management skills. A more severe form of this offense is an employee’s failure to show up at work without giving you any notice they are taking leave. Managers must review their policies and overall culture to prevent this kind of incident in the workplace.
Having an effective workforce management strategy is one of the first steps in discouraging absenteeism, which is why we recommend Homebase as the best workforce management software for any business. Homebase is free to small businesses and has cool communication options to keep you in touch with employees so that everyone is aware when work requirements or shifts change. It also has timekeeping and shift scheduling with GPS controls to prevent workers from signing in before arriving at work. Try Homebase for free.
3. Conflict of Interest
Conflict of interest in the workplace exists when an employee personally benefits from their position in the company. An opportunity to use one’s influence in the business for personal gain can be tempting. In a business, employees deal with customers, suppliers, and other employees who may attempt to get more out of their interaction. When left unchecked, this kind of behavior can negatively affect the company’s brand and bottom line.
Conflict of interest comes in many forms:
- Familial: Hiring family members and favoring them over other candidates or workers
- Romantic: When one employee is romantically involved with someone else affiliated with the business―coworker, client, and so on―and gains from it
- Financial: When an employee accepts payment from other people in exchange for special treatment
- Confidential: When an employee divulges confidential business information to other people in exchange for privileges
You must make the lines clear for your employees and specify what constitutes a conflict of interest. More often than not, it starts with a simple offense that employees assume is harmless.
4. Breaking Client Confidentiality
Breaking client confidentiality is another serious offense and is almost always grounds for termination. Businesses spend a lot of money on marketing and advertising to build public trust in their brand. This is important because employees who process transactions on the company’s behalf are privileged with the client’s personal information. Any incident that results in a business releasing a client’s information to the public will erode the brand’s good name and can cause serious legal ramifications.
An employee knowingly releasing client information for unofficial reasons, even accidentally, such as unauthorized forwarding of company email is a serious threat to a company’s future. Make sure that you have a procedure that checks a person’s background before getting hired and a strong data storage policy in place.
“My company specializes in security, so if an employee is exhibiting poor security behavior, it is a fireable offense. We regularly send out fake security threats to our employees to ensure they’re handling these events correctly. If an employee falls for a phishing scam or downloads malware to their computer, this can put all of our clients at risk. We have fired someone over this as we only employ a one-strike warning policy. If they will fall for our tests, they will fall for the real thing.”
―Will Ellis, Founder, Privacy Australia
5. Theft and Misuse of Company Property
The most common form of theft in the workplace is of company merchandise or property. This affects not only retail shops but even private offices as well. Business owners also need to take the incidence of petty theft seriously to set a clear precedent and prevent a more significant incident in the future.
One way to avoid this is to have a surveillance system in place. This will help you keep a close watch on your shop in real-time and discourage theft before it starts. We recommend SimpliSafe as the best security system for small businesses for detecting intruders. It’s a do-it-yourself system and offers a flexible solution that allows you to relocate, cancel, upgrade, or downgrade your service at any time. Visit SimpliSafe today.
6. Race and Gender Discrimination
Even at this age where people have become more sensitive with issues on equality, there are still incidents of discrimination due to a person’s race or gender in the workplace. This can be anything from an employee expressing gender or racially charged insults to being passed on for promotion due to ethnicity. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administers civil penalties on erring employers that cost anywhere from $50,000 to $300,000, depending on the type of discrimination and business size.
Discrimination can create a hostile and intimidating work environment for all employees, so it’s important to promote a culture that encourages reporting and awareness of this behavior. More often than not, discrimination in the workplace is due to ignorance and can be prevented through training. In the meantime, don’t wait for a situation to escalate before acting on a complaint. Remember not to jump to conclusions as well.
7. Violence & Harassment Towards Other Employees
Anyone who works at an office is expected to conduct themselves professionally. This includes handling arguments and differences in a professional manner. Raised voices during an argument are frowned upon, but physical altercations are even more serious. Employees engaging in a fistfight are clearly showing signs of disrespect for their colleagues, not to mention total disregard to company property and its clients.
Bringing dangerous weapons into the workplace is also a concern. This is because you should always presume employees who bring weapons intend to use them. To combat this, you should emphasize that your company is a safe place to work and discourage or prohibit the presence of weapons on company property.
Verbal bullying can also be categorized as harassment but more specifically addresses an employee’s conscious decision to make a colleague feel unsafe continuously. They may not necessarily fixate on a specific person to harass but, instead, create an uncomfortable working vibe for everyone in general. Anger management problems and issues with authority are telltale signs of someone more likely to commit this offense.
8. Recreational Drug Use in the Workplace
Employees are expected to come to work alert and prepared to be productive, so the use of recreational drugs should be strictly prohibited. Estimates for the total costs of lost productivity from drug misuse are close to around $120 billion. There is an increase in healthcare costs for employers, an increase in employee turnover, and ultimately a decrease in profitability. There’s also the risk of possible side effects such as hostile and aggressive behavior in users that can cause businesses to lose customers and, eventually, sales.
Drug abuse comes in many forms, and employers usually send erring employees home to recover. A business owner who has a written policy describing drug abuse as a fireable offense is within their rights to fire an employee if the use of recreational drugs adversely affects work performance.
“Despite the growing number of marijuana legalization laws, drug use remains a fireable offense in any state when it affects an employee on the job. An employer remains free to maintain a 100% drug-free workplace policy whether it is located in California or Alabama. While some states may restrict when an employer can drug test, that does not mean an employer ever needs to accept an employee being noticeably under the influence. The employer may wish to get the employee help under its Employee Assistance Plan, but it need not tolerate repeat offenders.”
―David B. Weisenfeld, Legal Editor XpertHR.com
9. Alcohol Intoxication During Work Hours
There are a variety of signs that can help identify employees who are intoxicated on the job like slurred speech and weakened balance. These incidents are common to shift employees because of the unique and irregular hours that they pull but vary for other companies, based on hiring demographics and time of year.
While employers in these industries offer support and treatment for their employees, some instances warrant termination. If an employee’s drunkenness causes grave concern, such as the safety of company property and its employees, then business owners have just cause to consider it as a fireable offense.
Here are some guidelines for dealing with on-the-job drinking:
- Document observations―with witnesses for corroboration―regarding behavior that points to intoxication
- Invite the employee to discuss these concerns
- If the employee lacks a logical excuse for odd behavior, ask a manager to escort them to a facility where they can be tested, such as a company clinic with a breathalyzer
- Depending on the results, the manager should escort the employee back to work or drive them home
- Require employees who are found positive for alcohol use during work hours to undergo rehabilitation or face sanctions, depending on company policy
When approaching an employee who is possibly under the influence of alcohol, substance abuse experts suggest you focus on your observation of their actions instead of stating an assumption. Address what you can see, such as slurred speech and alcohol odor to get a less defensive response from the employee.
10. Social Media Misconduct
Social media plays an important role in a company’s brand, so it’s natural for business owners to protect their reputation online. Some employees take their disagreements online when they can’t express themselves in the workplace. This can result in shaming, bullying and, sometimes, even accidental sharing of company procedures to the public, potentially causing your target market to develop a negative impression of your business.
Here are some of the actions to prohibit employees from doing on social media:
- Behaving disrespectfully against the business and its managers
- Posting false or inaccurate content
- Taking arguments with coworkers online
- Speaking to media representatives on the company’s behalf without authorization
If this happens, make sure that you have your HR manager immediately address the situation. Follow up on the complaints, conduct an investigation, and discipline or fire the offending employee.
11. Serious Insubordination
Insubordination refers to an employee who is outright disobedient or disrespectful to a manager or owner of a business. It’s not always grounds for termination, but it becomes serious the moment the employee displays a blatant disregard for company procedures. This disruptive behavior leads to adverse effects that create a less pleasant working environment and a decrease in overall morale and productivity in the workplace.
Some employees dismiss commands or miss deadlines intentionally as a sign of defiance. Some issue multiple excuses and refuse to apologize for any missed deadlines or uncompleted tasks. Other insubordinate behavior includes employees who, instead of taking responsibility for their actions, assign blame to other members of the work team for missed or incomplete work.
“In our experience, insubordination is frequently grounds for disciplinary action and termination. Employees who refuse to comply with company policy or create an environment of disenchantment and mistrust among co-workers can be terminated. The firm should have an established complaints policy so that unhappy employees have the opportunity to vent their frustrations to their supervisor or an HR manager. The goal is always to fix the problem and move forward, but when a situation cannot be resolved, we follow established industrial relations protocols and laws to terminate the worker.”
―Lara Quentrall-Thomas, Chairman, Regency Recruitment and Resources Ltd.
12. Falsification of Company Documents
Company records are official documents and should never be misrepresented in any way. Some employees tamper with company documents in their personal records to make themselves appear better than they are. This documentation can be time records, sales performance reports, and even financial statements if they are attempting to hide misappropriated money.
Tampering with one’s time card is a serious offense. This implies a growing negative culture within the company and should be addressed immediately. An employee might clock out before the workday ends, adding more overtime for no reason or not receive penalties for tardiness. This is possible even in this age of advanced technology where surveillance and biometrics are available.
When this happens, business owners should not only terminate the employees but also take a close look at the company’s culture to find the deeper reason why employees feel the need to tamper with their time records. Remember that this kind of offense is usually a result of collusion and that it’s highly unlikely that one person is doing it alone.
13. Destruction of Company Property
Intentionally damaging company property is a serious form of vandalism that should not be tolerated. Employees who commit this act is displaying aggression and violence that can be deemed dangerous and, as a business owner, your responsibility is to keep your employees safe within the workplace. Which is why this is considered gross misconduct and is a cause for termination after the incident is properly investigated.
If, after investigation, you find red flags that confirm a potentially violent employee, your next step should focus on how to issue the termination notice safely. You should consider waiting until the end of the workday to terminate. This protects the dignity of the fired employee and minimizes the number of employees on hand should a situation escalate. You should also have security close enough to hear signs of a problem and to act immediately if needed.
14. Constant Work Negligence & Violation of Policies
Neglecting one’s work duties and company policies are not usually subject to outright termination. However, if an employee does not show signs of improvement after several verbal and written warnings, termination should be considered. Employees are expected to be productive and mindful of company policies that ensure everyone’s safety, and anyone who repeatedly fails to do their part endangers the business and people who work in it.
“Employers absolutely should have an employee manual that outlines company policies, including standards of conduct, among others, such as communication processes, company mission statement, confidentiality, leave of absence, benefits, equal opportunity and nondiscrimination policies. By outlining standards of conduct expectations, employees are expected to perform job duties and responsibilities in a manner that reflects the ethical and professional standards of conduct and performance at the company. This also ensures that all employees, regardless of tenure or rank, are held to the same standards.”
―Lindsay Patten, Vice President of Human Resources, Reliant Funding
15. Lying on One’s Resume
Some job candidates don’t hesitate to lie on their resumes. This behavior is a form of misrepresentation and is considered a fireable offense. It’s especially crucial for roles that allow individuals to handle sensitive information for the company. Companies should, therefore, take steps to ensure the accuracy of the information on a candidate’s curriculum vitae (CV).
Some suggestions for vetting a candidate’s qualifications are:
- Review details including academic credentials and employment history
- Ask specific questions about statements made on the resume
- Check the candidate’s history online using internet search engines
- Call references in addition to those that the candidate provides
Business owners who encounter resume fraud should immediately conduct a proper investigation on the matter. You must have all the facts on hand before deciding to terminate.
Although not desirable, sometimes, a manager’s job includes firing an employee. Toxic behavior does not have a place in the workplace and, because it hinders productivity and disrupts company culture, you have to police it. Use our list of tips to help you identify reasons to fire someone who impedes the growth of your business.
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Got more fireable offenses you want to include in our list? Let us know in the comments.