Discipline when dashed romance affects work

Bad relationships can affect employees in surprising ways. When a romance ends, anger and frustration at home can wind up infecting the workplace. You can discipline employees if blow-back from love gone wrong harms your business.

Recent case: Ed worked for Arbitron, recruiting households to participate in radio and television ratings. He worked out of his home, but traveled door-to-door for part of his job. Arbitron provided a vehicle, GPS navigation system, cellphone, laptop, scanner, fax machine and a printer.

Ed apparently had a complicated personal life which spilled over into his business life. His ex-wife allegedly threw his company phone against the wall, put sugar in the fuel tank of the company car and damaged the company’s computer equipment.

Arbitron gave Ed a set of replacement equipment—and told him to secure it from further damage.

Then—a few years and relationships later—an ex-fiancée of Ed’s complained to the police that someone had posted sexually explicit images of her on the Internet. Police seized Ed’s equipment as evidence and Arbitron suspended him.

That’s when Ed claimed the woman—an Arbitron co-worker—had sexually harassed him. Arbitron then fired him for failing to safeguard the company-provided equipment.

Ed sued, alleging he had been fired in retaliation for complaining.

The court didn’t buy it, but accepted the company’s argument it was within its rights to fire Ed for not securing his equipment. The court didn’t care about the underlying circumstances, just the consequences to the equipment. (Monsivais v. Arbitron, No. H-12-3582, SD TX, 2014)