Is it legal to fire a worker if he or she is looking for another job?
“Yes, it is legal,” said a partner at a Philadelphia-based law firm. Whether or not it is advisable depends on the circumstances.
While most people work “at will”—meaning they can be fired for any reason, at any time, as long as it is not discriminatory—companies should consider the quality of the employee, any restrictive contracts and legal minefields before terminating someone who’s looking elsewhere for work.
Companies should consider terminating workers if they are privy to confidential information, trade secrets or proprietary data, especially if they’re looking to transfer to a competitor.
Ask; What do they do? What information do they have access to? Are we concerned about leaks of information?’ If the answer is yes, maybe we need to push the employee out the door.
It is important to take into account how a manager learns that an employee is seeking another job. If someone uses an office computer or work e-mail account to search or apply for positions, then it’s on company equipment and it’s fair game for a company to look at.
The caveat is going to be if an employee uses a personal e-mail account through company equipment. A company can’t hack into my personal Gmail account even if a company learns my password.
Managers should also consider whether the offending employee is a high performer. Typically, good workers are job searching because they don’t feel recognized or appreciated or they don’t see any career trajectory at their organization.
Wouldn’t a company be better off having some dialogue with the employee or implementing some kind of plan for that person to grow and develop? Turnover is extremely costly, and good employees are hard to find.”
Having a blanket policy that requires firing employees who look for other jobs is not wise.
What message does that send to the workforce?” You end up with employees who feel trapped and create mischief. But if companies keep job-hunting workers on board, might managers harbor ill will or residual suspicion about their loyalty or productivity?
Managers should be careful when providing references for individuals who were fired for looking elsewhere. While it may be tempting to bad-mouth the worker, it’s wisest to “subscribe to a less-is-more philosophy. Companies today are gun-shy They don’t want to risk a lawsuit, so they’ll just confirm that this person was employed on these dates in this job position and maybe give a salary or wage. Reprinted from SHRM.
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