Fighting at work: Fire one, both or neither?

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in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Preventing Workplace Violence

Q. Two of our employees got into a fight. One had a weapon, the other didn’t. The unarmed person wound up in the hospital. His supervisor told the injured employee to get better and come back to work. But the owner doesn’t want either back. Can we fire the injured employee without any future problems? —M.R., New Jersey

A. I understand your desire to punish the employee who brought the weapon more severely. However, it seems that the unarmed employee wasn’t simply defending himself—he actively engaged in the fight. If that’s the case, I would strongly recommend terminating both employees. Fighting is grounds for termination in any work environment.

Along those lines, if you haven’t already done so, include in your employee handbook a workplace violence policy that strictly prohibits acts and threats of violence and the possession of weapons and explosives.

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