Steps to Managing Serious Employee Situations in the Workplace

Harassment Complaint

  1. Listen. Meet with your employee in a secure location and listen to the details of the employee’s story. Take note of dates, times, situations, witnesses and document these details in writing.
  2. Gain Trust. Assure the employee that the complaint will be properly investigated and that s/he is protected against possible retaliation. Tell the employee that confidentiality will be respected as much as possible, but can’t be ensured in order to investigate fully & properly.
  3. Report. Immediately report the complaint to either your next management level or to a human resources representative.

Employee Fighting / Altercation

  1. Intervene. Call for assistance if necessary (security or police) to break up the fight. Do not put yourself in a position to get involved physically. If a weapon is brandished, take cover and call “911”.
  2. Separate. Assuming police have not been called, send both employees home on unpaid leave (unless you have a policy or union contract that calls for paid leave).
  3. Investigate & Respond. Conduct an investigation and depending on the results, take the appropriate action which may include a warning, suspension or termination. Follow-up with all employees. Utilize your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if possible.

Note: Violence can never be tolerated. When fists are thrown, termination is appropriate.

Employee Death

  1. Notify. Inform employees/executives with most critical need to know first, including HR. Then, notify remaining employees indicating details will be forthcoming as available.
  2. Be Sensitive. Ask the family for the name of one contact person who can provide funeral details when known, answer questions about the families’ wishes and arrange for benefits procedures to be completed when appropriate. Designate an internal contact person to connect with that individual and to answer questions or concerns from employees. Advise employees to address questions or concerns to your internal contact person rather than approaching family members.
  3. Support. Schedule time for employees to meet with or access your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Note: If an employee death occurs at work, call 911 and employee’s emergency contact person, as well as Safety/OSHA if death is work-related.

Employee Under the Influence

  1. Document. If you believe an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work, contact HR, security or another member of management immediately. As soon as reasonably possible, document what led you to believe the employee is under the influence. Record any witness statements.
  2. Test. If reasonable suspicion exists, both management and HR should meet with the employee, clearly, explain the observations, and indicate that in order to rule out the possibility that the employee is in violation of the company’s drug and alcohol policy, the company will send the employee for a drug or alcohol test. Arrange and if necessary, pay for, transportation for the employee to the testing facility and then home afterward. The employee should not be permitted to return to work until test results are available.
  3. Review Results and Take Action. If negative, allow the employee to return to work and consider paying the employee for work shifts/hours missed while waiting for results. If positive, refer to company policy and precedence. Company response may include referral to EAP, “last-chance agreement” or immediate termination.

Note: If test is refused, refer to policy which may state that refusal will be treated as a positive result and may lead to immediate termination. If employee attempts to drive, do not intervene – instead, note car and license plate and contact authorities.

Employee Arrest

  1. Gather Information. Although no federal law prohibits an employer from asking about arrest or conviction records, an arrest alone does not necessarily mean that an employee has committed a crime, and the employer should not assume that the employee committed the offense. Instead, the employer should allow the employee the opportunity to explain the circumstances of the arrest and should make a reasonable effort to determine whether the explanation is reliable. Beware of “false light invasion of privacy claims.”
  2. Make an Employment Decision. In those jurisdictions where state laws do not ban inquiries regarding arrest records, employers may make employment decisions based on the conduct underlying the arrest. An employee may be suspended or terminated for an arrest so long as the conduct for which the employee was arrested is relevant and makes the individual unfit for the position. Decisions to terminate should not be made in haste and should be limited to extreme situations where the conduct at issue impacts and relates to an employee’s position.
  3. Beware of State Law. Some states, such as California, prohibit employers from taking adverse action against an employee for an arrest when it does not lead to a conviction. However, employers are generally permitted to ask an employee about an arrest. In all cases, it is advisable to seek HR consultation and potentially – legal counsel.

The tips provided represent critical responses necessary in the identified situations, but do not encompass all guidance which may be applicable in each scenario. Your Employers Resource Client Service Coordinator is available to assist and support you through challenging employee relations circumstances.

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