Owners should not talk to uninvolved third parties, such as the media or non-management employees. Employers are under an obligation to safeguard an employee’s legal rights, including not harming their reputations. Employees who do not have supervisory or decision-making status should not be included in discussions related to an employee’s arrest. Unnecessary disclosure of information could potentially result in a defamation claim if the employee is later acquitted or the charges are dropped.
Employment or union contracts may limit an employer from pursuing a termination or other disciplinary action so the terms of these contacts must be checked carefully. An employment agreement may have very specific reasons for termination, and an arrest may not be among them. Taking action against a unionized employee usually must satisfy a ‘just cause’ standard in a collective bargaining agreement. If the union feels this standard has not been met, it might file a grievance and ultimately take the case to binding arbitration, creating a financial exposure for back pay and reinstatement. This may well be the case if the alleged offense occurred outside of work and on the employee’s own time.
School owners may be more tolerant of alleged crimes involving poor judgment, such as a recreational drug possession type of charge. However, they may be more likely to take disciplinary action against an employee accused of a more serious offense involving violence, dealing drugs, or inappropriate contact with children or the opposite sex.