You're a boss of a startup or a small company and suddenly you get a call - your employee has been arrested! Before you start panicking let's find out what you really should do
An employee getting arrested is an awkward situation for everyone involved. On top of being uncomfortable, this situation is also very serious. People who have committed certain kinds of crimes can’t be in your workplace. If they committed a crime on or with your property, that adds a whole new layer of complication to the situation. There’s no need to panic – you aren’t the only employer this has happened to, and although it may seem a bit messy, there is a proper way of handling this situation.
Avoid knee jerk reactions. Immediately firing an employee or conducting an investigation on your own may be against the law. You need to consider a wide variety of outcomes for this situations. This employee may have been wrongly arrested for all you know, and it would be wrong of you to terminate an employee over a case of mistaken identity. Don’t get ahead of yourself – find out what’s really going on before you start making any plans.
Ask the employee for his or her side of the story when you have an opportunity to speak with them. If the employee is released or out on bail and either calls you or returns to work, this person deserves an opportunity to explain their side of the story. It could be something minor – maybe they failed to attend community service ordered for a traffic violation. It may not be worth losing a great employee over something so minor.
If the employee is still in jail, you may not be able to speak with them. Sometimes, arrests are a matter of public record. Investigate the legality of employers requesting these records in your area. Some places don’t allow this. If they do, you’re within your rights to look up the charges. If it was something serious, your decision will inevitably become a little more difficult.
If the crime was committed on your property or with a company vehicle, you need to make sure you’re in the clear. You might want to hire a criminal lawyer to help you go over the details of the situation. Certain crimes may require you to look into vicarious liability if they happened close to or are associated with your workplace. It’s never a bad idea to talk to a lawyer when someone gets arrested – it’s important that you keep your bases covered. You won’t want any surprises later.
Don’t start any workplace gossip about the arrest – your employees may already be discussing it, but that doesn’t mean you should join in on the conversation. Discourage whispers in the workplace about what happened. Discussing details or relaying information about an arrested employee’s record is not only out of professional bounds, but also out of legal bounds in many cases.
For things like violent felonies or theft charges that will undoubtedly call into question this employee’s ethics in the workplace, it’s easy to legally fire the employee. You may not be within your rights to fire the employee for a simple misdemeanor if he or she doesn’t miss a substantial amount of work because of their arrest. If you’re ever unsure, ask your criminal lawyer. They’ll be able to tell you what actions you can take.
This situation can be stressful and tricky, which is why it’s all the more important that you approach it with a level head. Take time to think about what your next move should be, and if you need to do so, you can suspend the employee during that period of time.