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Avoidable Firings

On Behalf of | Jul 13, 2022 | Employment Law

In my experience in representing employers for several decades, these are some insights as to how to avoid being fired.

First try to avoid sharing your personal feelings to co-workers.  While all of us at times may be going through difficulties, whether it being a loss of a family member, divorce, physical injury, or other stressors, if you are consistently thought of as a black hole of despair your co-workers will not want to work with you.  Your career path will suffer if your fellow team members do not want to be on your team.  If there is a restructuring of the company and you are the person people generally do not want to work with because you always complain about a stressor in your life, you may be the first one to be laid off.

Likewise, sharing your romantic feelings about a co-worker is very dangerous.  The Rom Com series The Office was a very fun series, yet Jim and Pam in real life often do not get together and if they do they may later break up which can seriously impact their working relationship.

I have also seen circumstances where if a relationship ends badly and there are accusations, whether real or false, about domestic violence, such allegations could cause someone to lose his or her job.   Also if you attempt to have a relationship with a co-worker outside of work at a social gathering which is rebuffed by your co-worker that can impact your career path.  In particular, if you get drunk and grab a co-worker or make sexist comments to that co-worker, whether at a bar or private social gathering, your employer can decide to fire you even though all your activities or comments were done outside the workplace.

Alcohol and drug use can obviously hurt your career path.  While being an alcoholic and getting treatment is afforded protections under state and federal employment disability law, showing up to work impaired generally need not be tolerated by your employer, absent it being unintended such as for example following a pharmacist or doctor recommended dose of a drug prescribed to you, for the first time that adversely effects your job performance.

Sharing your opinions unrelated to work can also result in your job loss. While employees working in the public sector, being the government, have a little bit more protection, generally most of us work in the private work force. The constitutional freedom of speech right generally prohibits government from prohibiting your free speech, not your private employer.  There are laws that protect employees from complaining to each other about work-related issues and sharing their compensation with each other. While such company related speech is legally protected it may still not be prudent if you are looking to expand the possibilities of your career path. However, you have no such legal protection in the private workplace as to political speech.  For example, if you feel very strongly about the current or past United States President and you get into a heated discussion with a co-worker that has a different opinion, you, the co-worker, or the both of you might be suspended or fired by your employer if it disrupts the workforce and at a minimum your boss may consider you to have a quick temper and therefore pass over you for a promotion.

Daniel Marr is a Director and Shareholder at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. His legal practice includes counseling businesses and individuals on a variety of legal issues and advocating on their behalf. Attorney Marr is licensed and practices in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Attorney Marr can be reached at [email protected].