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Management And Training

Employee Misconduct

September 19, 2010
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Editor’s note:
Sometimes, an employee’s egregious actions justify dismissal.

There are, however, those select few who leap over the line of what is acceptable both in business and personal matters, and warrant seeking legal counsel or getting law enforcement involved.

A recent discussion on the cmmonline.com Bulletin Board addressed this situation.


Posted By Lynn Krafft 8/12/2008
Last week I had to dismiss an employee for misconduct involving a repeated failure to show up for work without notification.

All is documented and warnings were given on several occasions, which were later forgiven due to extenuating circumstances.

However, due to a serious bookkeeping fumble-up, this person had been given several checks with payment for a job that she was no longer doing. She ran up a $500 plus overpayment before the oversight was caught. Naturally, she never reported the obvious overpay.

I held back $100 from her next check (10 prepaid hours at $10 an hour) which was seriously reduced by the payroll correction.

That day she signed an agreement to repay $25 a week thereafter until the debt was cleared.

Now that she is no longer employed, she wants her last check due and the money held on the other check returned so she can work out a repayment plan at her discretion — which means I will never see a dime.

She is threatening labor board action. Did I handle this badly? Should there have been some advance notification that I would be considering some future labor time as prepaid to recover the funds?



Responses:

Ed Samson: 8/12/2008
When the bank makes an error and deposits $10,000 into your account in error you have to give it back or be prosecuted. Seems the same would hold true here. And, she acknowledged the error by signing the repayment agreement.

I would send her a letter stating that, because of the error, you are considering that amount as wages paid in advance. You will reduce the $500 owed by the $100 already deducted, plus wages from the past week. So, if the past week was worth $200, she would still owe you $200 which you will withhold from any future wages if she returns to work.

Of course, you’ll never see the remaining $200, but you operated in good faith by offering to deduct only $25 per week. I doubt she will contact the Labor Department, but you never know.

I think you are on solid ground, but I’m not an attorney. The amount probably isn’t worth contacting one either.

But, banks have this issue frequently with deposit errors, so you might get some free advice from your banker.

Tommy Griffin: 8/12/2008
First of all, do not send her anything but a letter of explanation of why she will not be getting another check from you. She owes you, so forget it, learn from it, and move on.

Send the letter certified return receipt. Then, have no more contact with her and let her take you to the labor board, just have your paperwork correct and all will be fine. I’ve had employees for 25 years and have been through worse.

Lynn Krafft:8/13/2008
Thanks, guys. I wasn’t sure I had followed the proper procedure. No one in the office has contacted her since she was dismissed and her phone calls get hung up.

However, she is now making anonymous phone calls to clients and making accusations of employee theft and such. She has also called other employees and our wives to try and cause trouble with accusations.

She turned one girl in to the Child Protective Services for no good reason except spite. I can handle the labor board matters, but I wonder if I should get the police involved in the harassment and slander issues.

Tommy Griffin: 8/13/2008
Call the police and report the incidents that she has done already just so it will be on file.

Have your attorney write her a letter and advise her of the legal issues that she faces and that you will follow through with this.

Bob The Cleaner: 8/13/2008
We use Sterling Testing (now Sterling InfoSystems) to do our employee background checks.

The reason I mention this is that along with the subscription fee, is free access to the largest employment law firm in the country, Jackson Lewis.

This service has helped me tack onto the right direction concerning employees more than once. It is invaluable to know what you can, or can''t do, with no grey areas.

Melissa Jent: 8/15/2008
Take her phone calls if she is still calling. I''m not sure how things work in your state, but in Ohio, you can tape a conversation as long as one party involved in the conversation — you or the employee — knows about being taped. Get a small digital recorder, they work wonders. It also helps when you are dealing with a complaint from a client.


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