Can employees be disciplined for conduct outside of workplace? By Shelton Mahandana

Generally, what an employee does after work hours is of no concern to his employer, who has no right to institute disciplinary proceedings against an employee unless it can be shown by the employer that the employee’s conduct has some interest/ impact in the employer’s business.

For the interest to be present, there has to be a link between the employee’s conduct and the employer’s business. In the absence of that link, the employee’s conduct is likely to be non-work-related conduct.

It has been accepted that where an employee’s misconduct occurs off an employer’s premises but impacts on the workplace, the employer is entitled to take disciplinary action against the employee. In these circumstances, the employer has to establish that it has a legitimate interest in the matter and that the misconduct/ conduct of the employee is disruptive to the employer’s business or affects the employer’s reputation.

It should be noted that the employer will not be entitled to dismiss an employee for conduct that has nothing to do with the employer. For example, the employer may not normally dismiss an employee who neglects his/her children or assaults someone in a nightclub on a Saturday night. But what if the employee was wearing his/her workplace uniform at the time of the assault, the employer may then be able to make out a case of bringing the name of the employer into disrepute.


Thus, despite the fact that the alleged misconduct occurred outside the workplace, it can still occur within the context of the work relationship. And, if it does, then the employer may, in certain circumstances, still have the right to discipline the employee.

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