Misbehaving outside of work could lose you your job!

This (edited) article by my colleague Anthea Christie might have been written a few months ago. But the message it conveys – about an employee’s behaviour when out of the workplace – has never been more topical. For ‘restaurant in Paris’, just substitute the phrase ‘looting in London’… 

The recent furore surrounding John Galliano’s suspension from Dior for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks raises an interesting issue about employees’ conduct outside of work.

The Creative Director of Dior was suspended last Thursday after a couple accused him of making anti-Semitic remarks in a restaurant in Paris. Since then, there have been further allegations of alleged racial abuse by Galliano. Dior has now launched an internal investigation into the matter, and the French Police have also been involved.

In the UK, an employee can be disciplined and/or dismissed for conduct outside of work. Particularly if it’s considered to have brought the employer into disrepute, or if it undermines the relationship between employer and employee.

As employment lawyers, we see more and more cases where an employee’s ‘own time’ conduct is getting them into trouble with their employers. With the growth of social networking, employees are more frequently finding themselves in hot water because of their activities on Facebook and Twitter, for example. We’ve seen cases where employees have been dismissed for ‘bad mouthing’ their employer. For displaying inappropriate photos. And for disclosing confidential, work-related information on such sites.

Where outside-of-work behaviour could amount to criminal conduct, an employee can still face dismissal even if the Police decide to take no action, or if the employee is acquitted of any criminal charge.

If an employer can show, on the balance of probabilities, that it held a genuine and reasonable belief that the employee was ‘guilty’ of the alleged misconduct, a dismissal could be considered fair. That’s quite harsh when you consider that the standard of proof required in a criminal matter is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, which is much higher.

So employees must be aware that they’re not immune from being sanctioned by their employer just because the conduct in question took place when they were not at work.

The big question is… are employees entitled to expect to keep their private and working lives separate? What do you think? Comments in the box below, please!

If there’s anything more you’d like to know about your rights and responsibilities at work (and out of it), you can contact someone who knows via our website: www.pattinsonbrewer.co.uk

We’ll be happy to help if we can.

Anthea Christie, Employment, Marcus Weatherby,
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