Workplace Q & A: Part 7

Q: Can I be fired just because I got arrested?

“I was arrested for getting into a serious altercation with a guy who rammed into my car on purpose. It wasn’t on work property or on work time. In fact, it was in another state. The trial won’t take place for one year. Can I be fired just because I got arrested?”

A: In this case, yes.

Yes, you could be fired or put on unpaid leave. A company cannot fire an employee simply because he has an arrest record. But it does not have to retain an employee with an open case for a crime involving violence.

If you weren’t at fault and you have documentation to that effect – such as a police report or statements from witnesses or your lawyer – you can try to convince your employer that you aren’t at risk for further violence. It would certainly help if you have no prior police record and an absolutely spotless driving record.

Q: My co-worker has nicknamed me Giraffe. Can he get away with this?

“My name is Geoff. I’m six foot four inches tall and fairly lean. One of my co-workers calls me Giraffe. I’ve repeatedly asked him to stop, but he just laughs and continues to do it. Can he get away with this?”

A: No.

Your co-worker is engaging in a common form of workplace bullying. It is stressful to be teased on a regular basis. It interferes with your ability to get your work done. You should file a written complain with your manager, detailing the times and places that your co-worker has engaged in this name-calling, and you should list those people who have witnessed it. Your company should instruct the employee to immediately cease calling you Giraffe.


Q: Can I get my co-workers to stay home when they’re contagious?

“The other employees in my area always come to work sick. The group passes around colds and flu all winter long. My problem is that I have asthma, and every time I get a cold, I’m laid low for two weeks on antibiotics and extra asthma medicine. I realize that my company’s management frowns upon taking a day off, and my clients aren’t too happy about it either. Still, isn’t there some way I can get my co-workers to stay home when they’re contagious?”

A: No.

Employees cannot be forced to stay at home. However, your co-workers may be willing to keep their distance if you explain how hard it is for you to shake a cold and how unproductive it makes you at work.

Ask your manager if he would allow you to work at home or stagger your hours when your co-workers are sick. You are certainly entitled to keep a distance from your co-workers. And wash your hands frequently.

Copyright © 2013–2014 Johanna Harris

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post contains numerous questions describing common recurring problems in the workplace. The circumstances described in these questions, including the names of characters and business firms, are fictitious.

About the Author: Johanna Harris has been a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and in-house labor counsel for two multinational corporations. She is currently the CEO of Hire Fire and Retire LLC. Her new book, USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace (i Book, Kindle, Amazon Paperback), is intended to help you learn enough about labor law and personnel practices so that you don’t get derailed from the career track you should be on.


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