For trusted public employees, unsavory off-duty conduct can amount to a firing offense

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in Firing,Human Resources

Most employees can’t be fired for their legal, off-duty activities. But that’s not true for some government employees. For example, police officers, judges and teachers have a higher duty to the citizens they serve, and they can be terminated for off-duty conduct.

Recent case: Frank Lampedusa was a tenured San Diego teacher assigned to a middle school. A student’s parent discovered that Lampedusa had posted a sex solicitation on Craigslist.com and contacted the police.

A police officer reviewed the posting, which was essentially an invitation for other men to engage in sex with Lampedusa. The posting in­cluded nude pictures of Lampedusa and a sexually explicit solicitation for men to contact him.

The police gave the information to the school district, which ultimately discharged Lampedusa for being unfit to teach.

He appealed the dismissal, claiming what he did on his own time wasn’t relevant to his ability to teach. He also argued that the Craigslist posting did not include his name, ­address or school affiliation and that students would have to click through a screen asserting that they were over age 18 in order to see the listing.

The court disagreed. It said ­teachers can be held to a higher standard, which includes using discretion when seeking sex partners. (San Diego Unified School District v. Commission on Professional Com­petence, No. D057740, Cali­fornia Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate Dis­trict, 2011)

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