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What to Do When an Employee Gets In Trouble With the Law

Police officer arresting a young man at nightPolice officer arresting a young man at night

Practically Speaking is a weekly column that addresses your most pressing business dilemmas. The advice is the opinion of long-time business owner Gene Marks. Send your questions to

One of my employees was arrested last week on charges of domestic violence. He was released on bail and showed up to work the next day. So far, I haven’t said anything. Should I?

According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the U.S. and 1 in 3 women (and 1 in 4 men) have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. The issue achieved national prominence in 2014 when a video showed football player Ray Rice hitting his spouse in an elevator. It’s serious and affects your company. So how do you handle this kind of situation internally?

If you become aware that an employee is a victim of domestic violence then hopefully you have a policy. Many employers do. The policy should state that you do not discriminate against anyone who is a victim of such a crime and that the company offers some type of paid leave so that the victim can seek physical or psychological care, services from a support organization or counseling, legal assistance and can have the time off to potentially relocate or take other actions to protect her (or his) safety. Some states have their own laws concerning the victims of domestic violence so you should definitely consult an attorney.

But what if it’s an accused offender? And he shows up to work the next day? What’s your policy? John Kasich’s campaign recently fired a staffer after he was arrested for domestic assault. That’s because his organization had a policy about behavior both on and off the job. You can do this too. But be careful – in many cases you can’t just automatically fire someone for this kind of behavior. In this country, people are still innocent until proven guilty and they’re entitled to due process. So just because someone is accused or even arrested for a crime doesn’t mean he did it, no matter the evidence. It’s within his right to come to work and unless you have a reason to fear for the safety of you or employees, you must give that person the opportunity to continue working. Some of my clients include paid time off even for offenders if they are seeking counseling or other support services to help them with their issues.

Your job, as owner, is to make sure you have a safe and productive work environment and if you think the presence of a domestic violence offender, even if just accused, jeopardizes that environment, then you must make the employee aware and keep him under close watch.

After a long interview process, we hired a great person for our customer service team. A few months later I found out that she lied on her job application and resume: she said she had a college degree but it turned out that she never completed it. I verified this with the college she attended. She’s been doing a good job for me. What do I do?

Hey, what’s a few little fibs, right? Some pretty important execs, bureaucrats and coaches have done it, so why not?

Lying on a job application or resume is serious stuff. Not having faith in someone’s integrity or honesty shakes the core of a business relationship. Not taking action could send a signal to others that you’re willing to accept dishonesty, regardless of the situation.

However, it’s an imperfect world. If an employee had lied on an application about something that was critical for her job – a required certification, licensing, experience with a certain skill needed – then you would need to terminate. In fact, according to this blog, the cardinal sin of lying on a resume is falsifying educational accomplishments. If the employee is a senior executive in your company who lied on a resume, then I would also strongly consider termination. This is not something that credible leaders do.

But a customer service rep? Someone who’s been doing a good job and doesn’t really require a college degree for her job? Assuming there are no other issues, I’d likely keep her. Of course, I’d have a private conversation with her, letting her know that I know about her indiscretion and giving her a chance to defend herself. But even assuming she has no defense, I’d lecture her, tell her how disappointed I am and watch her closely. But for the kind of job she’s doing, I wouldn’t terminate her.