When an employee or a student breaks the LAW
Employers have a legitimate business interest in learning about their employee’s off-duty conduct since some crimes could be an indicator of a probable workplace security or safety concern, especially in a martial art school environment where there is direct contact with students and students are taught to obey their seniors. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) position is that asking applicants about arrests is discriminatory due to the fact that minorities statistically tend to have a higher rate of arrests and convictions, and such inquiries on a pre-employment basis could result in disparate treatment of applicants who are members of a protected class. However, the EEOC does not prohibit employers from taking appropriate disciplinary action up to and including termination when an employee has been incarcerated or convicted of a crime provided that such decisions are made as a result of a valid business interest and the employer’s policies or practices are applied in a fair and consistent manner to all employees.
School owners should consider implementing a policy that specifically addresses the school’s position on arrested/incarcerated employees and students. School owners who do not wish to create such a policy may instead choose to follow whatever policy or practice is currently in place for dealing with unexcused absences.
Before making any decision on an employee’s job status, employers should first consult counsel and consider all available options. Employers must be aware of their employees’ rights, and always act in accordance with them. Making the wrong decision may result in a costly lawsuit, a disgruntled employee, and even a demoralized staff.