By Shayna Balch is a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP, handling employers in employment and labor litigation matters before federal and state courts as well as before administrative agencies. This article was published by the Phoenix Business Journal on May 13, 2014.
What you do and say outside of your place of employment is your private business, right? Think again, she wrote.
In the state of Arizona, the majority of employment relationships are at-will. Which means that if you don’t have a contract with your employer, you could be terminated at any time and for any reason that is not illegal, Shayna explained. While most employers don’t have the time or desire to monitor your every move outside of work, the Internet has made it much easier to keep tabs on inappropriate behavior.
1. Violating anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies– When coworkers socialize outside of work, complaints of inappropriate touching or violence between coworkers become commonplace, especially when drinking is involved, Shayna wrote. Complaints can also arise from co-workers spouting off on social media. Be sure you are up to date on what your employee handbook deems as harassing and discriminatory behavior before socializing with fellow co-workers.
2. Publishing slanderous, knowingly false or defamatory information– Employees should always avoid making knowingly false statements about the company, its clients and/or coworkers, even in jest or the heat of the moment .
3. Revealing trade secrets or customer confidences– Once again, social media is a Pandora’s box that can lead to a multitude of problems for employees and employers. Even posting a picture from the workplace online might inadvertently reveal confidential information or trade secrets. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your company’s social media policies before posting anything — even if the posts take place while you are not on company time or property.
4. Performing off-the-clock work– While there are no restrictions on the hours an exempt employee can work, nonexempt employees (those who are subject to state and federal minimum wage and overtime laws), must be paid for all hours worked in compliance with minimum wage and overtime requirements. By working off the clock, employees can subject their employer to substantial liability.
5. Moonlighting or freelancing– Employees generally have a duty to act in good faith toward their employer even when off duty. Engaging in a competing business or soliciting the employer’s business for your own profit or that of a competitor, can be immediate grounds for termination.
The bottom line? Have a clear understanding of what your company’s policies are and keep a current copy of your employee handbook within reach.