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)
- It's up to you to pay departing workers quickly
- Beware FMLA trap in no-fault attendance policy
- Don't believe it: Employee facing discipline can't quit and then claim constructive discharge
- Stop harassment suits before they start! Follow up with employees after every complaint
- Unionized? You may be able to use progressive discipline to address some forms of harassment