My company supplies vehicles to employees, who are allowed to use the cars for personal uses. We allow our employees to perform side jobs, and we do not require them to sign an employee agreement. Additionally, we’re an at-will company.
We recently received an E-mail from an employee’s wife stating that her husband is doing side jobs. She says she has informed him not to so he doesn’t lose his job. Additionally, she claims that he is drinking and driving in a company vehicle. We do have GPS on the vehicles but we cannot prove that where they are on any given time is a personal use of the truck or a side job. Of course, we also cannot prove driving drunk. By the time you can prove drunk driving, in many instances, it is because there was an incident. We certainly don’t want to wait until that happens. I do suspect that there are issues, such as a possible separation, between the employee and his wife, so sending this E-mail could possibly be to cause trouble for him. How do you suggest we handle this situation?
A number of thoughts come to mind. Long time ago, I asked an alarm company owner what he did to make sure his employees weren't going jobs on the side during his work hours and with his equipment (this was long time before computer and inventory control, which most of you don't have anyway). His answer surprised me, and I remember it 30 years later: "If an employee is doing that, I don't want to know about it. Good techs are too hard to find".
Another thought. Many of you know that I split my professional time between the alarm industry and bankruptcy practice (I am a Chapter 7 United States Bankruptcy Trustee here in New York). One of the best sources of information regarding debtors comes from disgruntled spouses. In this case, the wife either is disgruntled, or has a genuine concern for the well-being of the husband/employee, third persons and the employer. If the info just dealt with the drinking problem, I'd say a genuine concern. But the info re the side jobs leads me to think disgruntled spouse.
Use of the company vehicle for non-work related driving, especially while drinking, can't be tolerated and needs to be investigated. Confronting the employee is probably a good start. A drinking problem is not that easy to hide.
Side jobs are another matter. They of course fall into two categories: Side jobs done during work hours with or without employer material and equipment, and side jobs done on off hours with no employer materials. As the employer, it's your responsibility to spell out the rules. Employees should agree in writing — use the Standard Employment Contract. If you want to permit some outside work, then set the parameters. Be consistent with enforcement among your employees. Better to change the rules then turn a blind eye, especially once it becomes obvious.
As an employer, I've found that firing an employee is really the easiest thing to do (I rarely do it). Getting an employee to work and do a good job — that's the hard part. Good employees deserve the benefit of the doubt. Avoid misunderstandings, and have employment contracts and written company policies.
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