The Mailbag.

AuthorDelogu, Nancy

An employee was suddenly sent to jail: What should our HR department do?

Q We just found out that one of our employees was sent to jail, apparently for violating probation. He's had some attendance issues and, before all this, was being written up for those. What should HR be considering?--Lindsay, North Carolina

  1. You didn't say what kind of position the employee holds or whether you were aware of his criminal/probationary status when you hired him, so I will give you some general advice.

    First, it is acceptable to ask the employee about his criminal history. You can also research his criminal history status so you understand what the employee has been charged with or convicted on. (But if you use a third party for this service, make sure you follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act requirements.)

    If what you learn causes concern that the employee's actions make him a risk given the work duties, you may want to take action. Remember: There is a difference between a conviction and a charge when evaluating your options. And, thus, you may face restrictions on your ability to use the information to make employment decisions, particularly if the employee has yet to be convicted. (Also, note that minorities are often more likely to be arrested and charged than are white citizens.)

    If, on the other hand, the employee's alleged behavior is unfortunate but not really related to the work performed, you may wish to continue to work with that employee. Sometimes, reaching out to the employee's parole officer to better understand the charges can lead to a positive relationship and help ensure the employee can be successful with rehabilitation.

    Upcoming webinars for HR April 1: The COVID Vaccine: Legal & Practical Solutions for HR April 2: FMLA Compliance Clarity: Managing Leave in a Changing Workforce April 7: Independent Contractor vs. Employee: How to Classify with Confidence April 9: Hacking HR: How to Navigate Your HR Technology Decisions in 2021 April 14: Keeping up With Your Handbook: A Hands-on Workshop for Making Essential Changes April 22: Learning the Law: HR Fundamentals for Managers April 23: Documenting Employee Performance: Strategies & 101 Sample Write-ups To register or learn more, goto Employee gave last-minute notice of need for FMLA leave: Can we discipline for that?

    Q Our policy says employees must give one hour's notice of absences. An hourly employee's shift was to start at 3:00 p.m. and he called in at...

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