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‘Unacceptable conduct’ is valid discharge reason

by on
in Firing,Human Resources

Public employees are entitled to due process before they’re fired. But that’s a flexible standard that allows firing for “unacceptable personal conduct.”

Recent case: Edwin Jolly was an information technology worker at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for 22 years. Then he was fired for engaging in unacceptable personal conduct, something the university manual listed as just cause for dismissal. (Court records don’t list the particular offense.)

Jolly argued that the term was too vague to be constitutional; therefore he had been denied due process.

The court disagreed. Just as the phrase “unbecoming an officer and a gentleman” has been ruled an adequate termination basis for police officers, “unacceptable personal conduct” is fair grounds for dismissal of a North Carolina state employee. (Jolly v. University of North Carolina at Wilmington, No. 7:09-CV-136, ED NC, 2010)

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