Sometimes however, the stories are just funny. People behaving badly, or, to be more precise just not able to realize the difference between ‘stuff you should do at home’ and ‘stuff that’s OK to do at work.’
Like vice cops, HR swoops in, conducts a raid, and passes judgment on activities that society views as evil, degrading or immoral.
Over the years I’ve played vice cop a number of times such as when I:
- Discovered the (quite successful!) porn magazine ring being run by several enterprising team members. Participating employees would bring magazines and stash them in a ‘library’/storage closet to which they all had access. Checking out desired reading material was on the honor system.
- Unearthed a huge (!) bag of cannabis while conducting an employee locker-room cleaning. Obviously, dude had been sampling the product and missed the signs posted for a full month beforehand that any lockers not claimed/listed would have the locks cut off.
- Convinced a hiring manager that a candidate’s 20-year-old self-disclosed arrest (no conviction) for prostitution was not pertinent to the current discussion about her suitability for employment
- Found rumpled, um, bedclothes in a seldom-used work space. Very well-used, um, bedclothes.
Obviously, in addition to common sense, HR policies or organizational codes of conduct come into play when investigating and evaluating when an employee’s activities require discipline or termination. And, naturally, we review some activities in conjunction with our workplace/sexual harassment policies.
There are, however, some organizations that consider conduct that constitutes “moral turpitude” unacceptable and immediate grounds for discipline or termination. Defined as “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals,” this can cover a whole lot of ground. In legal proceedings, a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude may result in witnesses being impeached, license-holders (i.e. attorneys) losing their licenses, or lawful permanent residents (immigrants) being deported.
Independent of the various legal definitions around the theory is this something that we, especially in HR, categorize as something that we’ll “know when we see it?”
And I wonder if we get overly worked up and climb up on our HR-High-Horse when employee behavior includes elements of sex, drugs and, perhaps, even a little bit of rock-n-roll?
Who passes judgment on morality? Are HR practitioners – or lawyers, god forbid – the ones who should be doing this?
I’m curious – who amongst us has been faced with making an employment decision based on the concept of “moral turpitude?”