United States: Philly Off-Duty Employee Did WHAT? Some Tips So Employer Doesn't Step In It, Too

For the first time since 1960, the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions. Inspired play from backup quarterback Nick Foles and some gutsy moves from coach Doug Pederson propelled the Eagles past the favored Patriots in one of the better games I've seen in quite some time. I'm far from a Philly fan, but I have to say I'm happy for Eagles Nation.

If you're a football fan, you're aware that Eagles fans are known to be a bit (what's the word here?)...rowdy. A Philadelphia crowd once booed Santa Claus during a game at Veterans Stadium. At one point the old "Vet" even hosted "Eagles Court," an honest-to-goodness court of law established to process criminal violations during games. Just a few weeks ago, stadium officials ejected a rowdy fan who punched a police horse on the way out, earning a criminal citation for "illegally taunting" the animal among a slew of other charges. (More on that in a moment–the horse, or one of his colleagues, may have taken revenge last night.)

Well, the Eagles may have turned the corner on their championship drought, but their fans' rambunctiousness appears to die harder. The Philly faithful hit the streets in droves last night, and who can blame them? After 58 years, far be it for me to begrudge them blowing off some steam and reveling in some success.

Then again, there are limits to a good time and, true to form, the Eagles bum-rushed the line and charged right past it. You may have seen some of the stories. Overjoyed fans climbed the awning outside the Ritz-Carlton and did 'trust falls' and flips until the awning finally collapsed under their weight. Other fans busted store windows. I saw one picture of fans swarming a trash hauler.

It gets worse. Remember that thing about the police horse? Philly's finest were out in force last night desperately trying to keep order, including some horse-mounted patrols. Well, let's just say that when duty calls a police horse the horse still has to answer nature's call and, sure enough, one of the horses answered nature's call. (If you're not getting my drift, I'll be more direct: A police horse pooped in the street.) A crowd gathered, a sucker stepped forward, and, egged on by the crowd, the sucker leaned over and ate (yes, ate) some of the horse dung. Multiple cell phones in the crowd recorded it, and it's gone viral. Look it up at your own risk.

This story may raise a question: What if a friend sent you that article, you clicked the link, and found your employee smashing a window, trampling a hotel awning, or (heaven forbid) chowing down on horse droppings? He's off the clock, he's not at work, but he still may be recognized as one of your employees. Could you take action against him?

The bottom line is you're going to need to restrain any knee-jerk reaction. Some states have statutes on the books that limit employers' ability to discipline for off-duty activities. For instance, California law prohibits demoting, suspending, or discharging employees for lawful conduct occurring during non-working hours away from the employer's premises. Colorado has a somewhat similar prohibition, and other states protect political activity, miscellaneous affiliations, off-duty use of tobacco or other lawful substances, and any number of other concerns. Furthermore, the National Labor Relations Board has been actively reviewing employers' use of information obtained from social media in disciplinary action.

Granted, you probably aren't going to surf the internet and find one of your employees staring back at you with a mouthful of...no, crushing a hotel awning. You may, however, learn that he belongs to some organizations or attended a public meeting that you find to be inconsistent with his work. Before taking action, you will want to see whether applicable statutes or common law in your jurisdiction need to be considered first. You don't want to walk away with a bitter taste in your mouth!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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