Category Archives: Discipline and Discharge

Searching a Former In-House Counsel’s Computer, Quirky Question # 111

Quirky Question # 111:

We fired one of our in-house counsel.  He now has sued us for a variety of claims, all of which we think are bogus.  At the time his employment ended, we required him to turn in his company-owned computer.  We are reviewing it and finding that it contains a treasure trove of information useful to our defense of his case.  First, it contains evidence that corroborates our justification for the discharge decision – he just was not competent.  Second, it contains his ruminations about his litigation strategy, as well as  memos he prepared for his own lawyer regarding his potential claims.  Given that he composed all of these memos on his company-issued computer and left the memos on the computer when he departed, we assume that we can access and use this material?  Any problems with our assumption? Answer→

Accessing Pornographic Websites, Quirky Question # 109

Quirky Question # 109:

We recently discovered that one of our company’s computers was used to access pornographic websites.  Many different employees had access to this computer, but we believe we know who is responsible.  In part, our conclusion is based on the fact that he is the only male employee who has access to that computer. We’re thinking about terminating his employment based on our impressions.  Frankly, we would rather be sued by him than by our female employees who use that computer, a number of whom complained about the pornographic websites that now often pop up on the computer.  Any risks associated with terminating the male employee? Answer→

WARN Act Issues, Quirky Question # 94

Quirky Question # 94:

I own a company that manufactures boats.  We fabricate fiberglass hulls in one facility and install motors, carpet, seats, steering, etc. in another facility a few miles away.  I employ about 200 employees between the two sites.  Three weeks ago, one of my major customers cancelled a large order.  I haven’t told my employees yet, but this means I may have to let go 50-75 employees within the next month.

I’ve heard of something called the “WARN Act,” that covers employers who have to lay off employees.  Does that law affect me? Answer→

Terminating Bankrupt Employee, Quirky Question # 93

Quirky Question # 93:

I am the Chief Financial Officer of a public company.  I recently learned that the Controller of our company has filed for personal bankruptcy.  I don’t think that we should have someone in that position who has obviously been unable to handle her own finances – not only because she has access to the company’s finances, but also because as word of this spreads, I don’t think that others in management will trust her judgment any longer.  Is there any reason that we cannot terminate her employment? Answer→

Employee Relationships and Protective Orders, Quirky Question # 79

Quirky Question # 79:

Like many companies, we periodically have situations where two of our employees get romantically involved.  (We don’t have a non-fraternization policy and don’t attempt to limit these relationships in any other way.)  Sometimes, the two involved employees have a great relationship and ultimately get married.  Some times, the relationship ends, but the employees seem to work things out amicably and it doesn’t affect their interaction at work.  Some times, it gets ugly.

I’m writing about one of the ugly situations.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, but about which I can draw reasonable inferences, one of our female employees has obtained a Protective Order against her former paramour.  I think they were living together, though our HR records show them as having two difference addresses.  Our female employee provided me with a copy of the Protective Order and asked for my assistance in “keeping that asshole, XXXX, away from me at work.”  She also advised me, in colorful language, that if I don’t keep him away from her, she intends to call the police and have XXXX removed from the worksite.

Frankly, my reaction is “life is too short” for me to have to deal with this nonsense.  Both employees are at-will employees.  My inclination is either to fire one of them or both of them.  Do you seen any problems with either of these approaches? Answer→

Downsizing and Foreign Nationals, Quirky Question # 76

Quirky Question # 76:

I read with interest your analysis of alternatives to layoffs [Quirky Question # 71].  We have a slightly different issue.  Like many companies, we are facing the difficult prospect of downsizing staff.  We are a small technology company with operations in the US and an office abroad.  Among our professional staff are a number of foreign nationals with a veritable alphabet soup of immigration statuses.  We have a permanent resident, a couple of H-1B’s, and L-1A, an L-1B, a TN and an F-1 foreign student thrown in for good measure  If we lay off or reduce the hours or salaries of these individuals are there any special considerations we need to think about from an immigration perspective? Answer→