Gross misconduct in the workplace is any action or behavior that justifies the instant dismissal of an employee.
While allegations against someone for gross misconduct can be very serious, the company can’t take action until the misconduct has been proven.
Each type of gross misconduct has various consequences depending on the severity of the action. Depending on how serious the misconduct has been, the employee can face anything from suspension to serious legal repercussions.
What are Some Examples of Gross Misconduct?
Gross misconduct in the workplace involves anything that falls under the following categories:
Violence and fighting;
The vandalization of company property;
Intoxication in the workplace;
Breaching health and safety protocols;
Repeated unnotified absences, etc.
While these are the major grounds for dismissal or termination, gross misconduct isn’t limited to this list.
The company can create a more comprehensive list outlining other acts that will be considered misconduct, and each will carry its own consequences.
What are the Consequences?
Gross misconduct can have varying levels of consequences depending on the severity of the offense committed. Some of the consequences of gross misconduct are explained as follows.
1. Suspension of the Employee
The least severe consequence of gross misconduct is the suspension of the employee for an indefinite period or until the investigation is over.
Whether to pay the employee salary and benefits during this time will depend on the company policy.
2. Employee Termination
Upon investigation, if the management finds substantial proof of gross misconduct by the employee in question, they can terminate that employee immediately without prior notice. This is permissible if the management has followed a fair procedure to investigate the matter. They should also mention the reason for immediate termination in their statement.
3. Application for Unemployment
Upon termination or lay-off, an employee can file for COBRA Continuation Coverage. Whether or not their claim will be approved depends on their former employer, as employers must pay payroll taxes. Upon the approval of the claim, the company can be burdened with additional taxes.
However, if the company feels the employee terminated due to gross misconduct isn’t legally eligible for the benefits, they can file an appeal against the unemployment claim.
4. Legal Investigation
The company could take the employee to court if the gross misconduct has been exceptionally serious and illegal. Then court proceedings will take place to decide (a) whether gross misconduct has occurred and (b) whether the misconduct is legally punishable.
In the legal process, the employee has the chance to provide evidence and absolve themselves if they believe that they have been wrongfully accused of gross misconduct. Even after an unfavorable verdict, the employee can appeal the decision and try to exonerate themselves.
How to Investigate Gross Misconduct?
Employers need to gather evidence before they can take serious action against an employee for gross misconduct. Otherwise, they expose themselves to wrongful termination claims.
To investigate and prove gross misconduct, they can gather evidence through the following steps:
Gathering witness statements;
Reviewing employee log books;
Reviewing the job description of the employee under investigation to understand the gravity of the misconduct;
Looking back at the documentation to see if the employee had conducted other punishable actions in the past;
Allowing the employee to present their side of the story.