my coworker was arrested for domestic violence in front of us, and our employer won’t do anything about it

A reader writes:

Several months ago, our organization and several other partner organizations attended a conference. On the final night, my coworker “Joe” physically assaulted his girlfriend (who he’d brought along for some reason) and was arrested. The incident took place in his hotel room, and several of my coworkers, a few managers (but not his manager) and several employees of partner organizations witnessed it because they were staying on the same floor. The incident was so loud and disturbing that the hotel actually comped everyone on the floor’s night’s stay at our organization’s expense.

We all assumed that Joe would be fired, but he wasn’t even suspended (no rehab, no anger management, nothing) and returned to work like nothing had happened. This is especially concerning because he is an outreach worker and 80% of his job is dealing with a vulnerable population, some of whom likely have experience with domestic violence. (He would have had to pass a criminal record check to be employed.) His manager is taking the stance that “he’s a good guy who had too much to drink” and our executive director says that Joe can’t be fired because it’s a personal matter, not a job matter, and we could be sued for wrongful dismissal (though he hasn’t consulted a lawyer).

Many of our coworkers (myself included) are disturbed that Joe is allowed to remain in his outreach position and believe that his behavior directly impacts his ability to do his job. Some partner organizations are even deciding to not refer clients to us because of it.

Is it true that Joe cannot be fired for what he’s done? Is there any way for us to frame this to our executive director in a way that’s likely to make him take action (or is it even worth the potential blowback)?

No, it’s not true that he can’t be fired.

I checked with employment lawyer Bryan Cavanaugh to make sure there wasn’t something I was overlooking here, and he agreed. He says: “The notion that someone cannot be fired for personal conduct off the clock and away from work is false.”

It’s true that in some states the organization would need to be careful not to fire Joe for committing a crime that he hasn’t been convicted of, because some state laws prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee based on arrests or criminal charges that did not result in convictions. However, the organization could leave the crime issue out of it and simply fire Joe for hitting someone on a business trip, or causing a commotion during a business trip, or behavior on a business trip that soured relations with partner organizations. Bryan explains, “If the employer does decide to fire, it should be clear that Joe would be fired for his conduct, not whether he was arrested for it or whether that conduct would constitute a crime. Often this come down to an issue of wording.”

Bryan also pointed out: “In Joe’s case, there are two sides to every story, and it sounds like the author did not witness the altercation, so it is possible Joe is not being let go because his actions were justified. This sounds unlikely, but it is possible the violence was a true accident or self-defense.”

In any case, your organization is wrong about the law. As for how to talk to your executive director about this, you can certainly point out that the law does allow taking action here, that some partner organizations aren’t willing to send clients to you anymore, and that many of you are concerned that a coworker assaulted someone on a work trip and it’s being brushed aside as “a good guy who had too much to drink.” If you don’t feel comfortable or safe working around Joe, you can state that too. Those are all reasonable things to say, and you shouldn’t face blowback for it.

Ultimately, this is your executive director’s call (one that will be complicated by the fact that several months have already passed, unfortunately). … but it’s absolutely reasonable for you and your coworkers to speak up about this.

{ 279 comments… read them below }

  1. thenoiseinspace*

    I’m so tired of people using alcohol as an excuse for terrible behavior. Actions have consequences and being drunk shouldn’t be treated as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

      1. Arbynka*

        Where I come from, the law says that being drunk is in no way mitigating circumstance. You drink, you are responsible for your actions while drunk.

        1. Emily K*

          Yes! I have an interesting pair of experiences from my career. In the past, I worked at an organization where it was very normal for staff to gather at a nearby bar after work–there was a lot of binge drinking and a lot of inappropriate behavior and a scandal or two came out of it. It was a very unhealthy culture to be working in (although I was so young and it seemed so comparable to the binge-drinking college environment I’d just left that I didn’t see it that way until I moved on to another job where this was not the norm).

          Fast forward several years, and I’m once again working in a workplace that drinks a lot. Afternoon meetings feature alcohol more than occasionally, there’s a regular weekly “happy hour” that takes place in the office during business hours, and our staff retreat is a 3-day open bar renowned for late-night drunken karaoke sessions and the dozens of hungover people who show up to the 8am general sessions in sunglasses. Yet at this workplace, there’s no inappropriate behavior or scandal no matter how drunk everyone is getting. Last year, the “juicy gossip” from staff retreat was that one employee got “so drunk she fell asleep at the afterparty and had to be woken up.”

          The difference? My current employer has always made it crystal clear that alcohol is not an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Every year before staff retreat, HR emails the entire staff to remind us that although alcohol will be available, this is a work function and we will be held accountable to the code of conduct and you will be fired for misconduct on this trip just as you would be in the office.

          Once it’s made clear that “I was drunk” won’t be accepted as an excuse for misconduct, people are capable of behaving themselves no matter how drunk they are. If they can’t, it’s not the alcohol to blame, it’s willful disregard.

          1. Sophia*

            I wrote about this previously, but I completely agree re: alcohol not being used as an excuse. My former company had “wine time” every Friday, and during one of those times, I was sitting near three women who were talking about Halloween. One said that her and her husband would be the Cosbys – blackface and all. The three of them laughed and laughed. I was disgusted. There was a lot of other behavior (calling my coworker a “ghetto Latina” because she wore a studded belt, the people of color getting passed on for opportunities) but when I went to HR about this incident in particular, he said he couldn’t do anything because it was during “wine time” and officially not work related. Ugh. Glad I (and two of my coworkers) left that place

            1. Liane*

              Ugh, yes, I recall when you asked Alison about those incidents & all the good discussion. I am so glad to know that you & the others got away from there.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Amen. It’s ridiculous not only that people use alcohol as an excuse, but that they get away with doing so. Sexual assaults, physical assaults, etc. have all been put down to “too much to drink.” If you drink too much and commit violent crimes (which I’d say assault, physical, sexual or otherwise falls under), then you need to curtail your drinking or stop altogether because something is really wrong with you. Alcohol is not the problem, YOU are the problem.

      I heard a story once where someone drove a woman home because she had too much to drink and couldn’t drive. She could barely walk herself out of the restaurant apparently. He then had sex with her at her home, she claimed it was rape and he said it was consensual. Really?? You drove her home because she’d had so much to drink she couldn’t drive herself and yet, you think she could consent to sex with you? WTH??? UGH.

      1. Audiophile*

        That unfortunately occurs far too often and many times, the victim gets blamed. ‘If she hadn’t been so drunk…’

        1. Liane*

          Many, if not all, states have laws that explicitly say that an intoxicated person of any age cannot give consent for sex. (Often true for other conditions that impair intellect/judgment as well.)

      2. en pointe*

        Yeah and, not sure if it’s the same story, but I heard one where it was actually boss and subordinate… so feel free to multiply that sleazeball characterisation by about 1000.

      3. plain_jane*

        Actually, on thinking about this some more, I’m more concerned that the higher ups in an organization which is working with vulnerable populations is taking the stance of “he’s a good guy, just drunk”.

        If I was a partner organization who heard about the incidence, the problem with referring more clients wouldn’t just be that they’d potentially be dealing with this guy, but that the management seems so clueless about the issue.

        1. Melissa*

          This. Plus I wouldn’t want a person who gets violent when he has “too much to drink” anywhere near my organization’s employees, especially at work lunches or networking functions at which alcohol might be present.

    2. Tori*

      The alcohol defense is also leaving off a critical part of the equation: he had “a little bit too much to drink” and then he HIT his girlfriend. That is not okay.

    3. Green*

      If an employer wants to keep someone on who had an alcohol-fueled outburst, it should at the very least require them to go to a treatment facility.

  2. iseeshiny*

    I would ananymously forward the executive director a link to this post if you don’t want to be the one to cause “drama” (although, really, the drama-maker is the guy who assaulted his girlfriend, not the people who have a problem with the assault).

    1. webDev*

      I disagree. If this is important enough for the OP to bring up at work, then cowboy up and do it in person. Anonymous notes are the equivalent of whispering in the halls and always a bad idea.

      1. iseeshiny*

        I agree in theory, but I think protecting yourself comes first. If your career will be damaged because you’re calling out something like this, or you think you’ll be in physical danger because Joe has shown the capability to become violent and you don’t want to get one his bad side I think it’s completely reasonable and even smart to keep your name out of it.

        1. webDev*

          Then don’t say anything.

          We are making some big assumptions here: upper management is clueless, the situation with the guy is actually what the OP thinks it is, the hotel bill was actually charged to the company.

          I think it’s important in charged situations like this to take a step back and actually yourself what you actually *know*, and what you *heard*. If any facts are not something you’d testify to in court, then it’s probably not something you should bring up to your boss. If they are something you testify to, there should be no concern at all about bringing then up to your boss in person. Does that make sense?

          1. iseeshiny*

            I think we should do OP the courtesy of assuming they are knowledgeable about the situation – if we assume that everyone who writes in is misrepresenting the situation no one can give very useful advice. So, no, I disagree. If I feel unsafe reporting someone because they have shown their judgment to be so poor that they assault their SO on a business trip (regardless of the amount of alcohol imbibed – it lowers inhibitions, it doesn’t cause personality changes) I think an anonymity is completely reasonable.

            1. PurpleChucks*

              Instead of anonymous, perhaps the OP could always find safety in numbers with the “coworkers, a few managers (but not his manager) and several employees of partner organizations” who witnessed the incident. Even if the the OP wasn’t there, it sounds like plenty of credible people were…

              1. en pointe*

                I agree. I think this is a good middle ground.

                OP, you mentioned that several of your coworkers are also disturbed by this – if you can get a group together to express your concerns, it would probably carry more weight than you as an individual. (And a hell of a lot more weight than an anonymous note, which many people might not want, or might find it difficult, to act on at all.)

          2. The OP*

            I’m the OP in this situation. I heard the situation unfold because I was staying on the same floor as Joe, and I went into the hall along with several of my coworkers to see Joe being led away in handcuffs. His girlfriend was also led away, though not in handcuffs, (not sure if she was arrested or if she went in for questioning), but she had marks on her arms and on her face.

            Judging from the sounds, he seemed to be the instigator, although she was clearly intoxicated as well. What I heard was very clearly domestic violence. She may have returned the violence, but from the conversation I heard, he was the instigator.

            Upper management is aware of the incident because several managers reported it and discussed their concerns. Several outreach workers have told their managers about other organizations not referring clients to us, but I’m not sure if it’s made it to upper management yet.

          3. Zillah*

            If any facts are not something you’d testify to in court, then it’s probably not something you should bring up to your boss.

            I could not disagree more. I actually think that’s a pretty awful standard. IMO, if you only bring things up once you’d be willing to testify to them in court, you’re waiting way, way too long.

            Now, that doesn’t mean that you should go in demanding things or presenting them as fact if you don’t know them to be the case… but presenting your concern, especially in situations that either make you feel unsafe or are having a negative effect on the company? Absolutely.

  3. BCW*

    Let me first be clear that I don’t think domestic violence is ever ok (man on woman or woman on man). However, as I’ve stated many times, I also think at a person’s behavior off the clock (and yes its questionable whether alone time on a business trip is on or off the clock) shouldn’t be a determining factor in their job. I’m betting many people work with people that if they knew what they did off the clock would have a problem with it. However, if Joe is generally good at his job and has never threatened or done anything toward any of the co-workers, then I don’t think he should be fired, at least not until he is actually convicted of something. If I got into a fight with a guy at a bar over the weekend, and was arrested, would people think I should be fired for that, even if I’ve never showed any aggression toward co-workers? What if on a business trip I got into a fight with a random person and got arrested? Does it matter the circumstance (such as they called me a racial slur)?

    I really think unless the guy has shown that this impacts his ability to do his job, then its really on the manager whether or not they want to fire him. If the manager is ok with the people pulling out, then thats on them. Also, I don’t buy that because of this one instance that everyone should automatically feel unsafe around him. People do act different in and out of work, especially when alcohol is involved.

    1. Anonymous*

      The problem is that Joe isn’t good at all aspects of his job. The aspect of the job he isn’t good at is representing the company to their partners. The company has lost business over his behaviour.

      As a general rule I think on a big work trip (retreat, conference etc.) you’re on the clock the whole time.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Agreed absolutely with this! This was not Joe’s personal time, he was on a business trip and he was in a hotel with people who were perspective and current partners of his company. This is not “alone time” this is business time.

      2. Zahra*

        Another aspect to this situation is “This is especially concerning because he is an outreach worker and 80% of his job is dealing with a vulnerable population, some of whom likely have experience with domestic violence.”

        Just the fact that he was arrested for physically assaulting someone should be cause for pause, in these circumstances. If this information had appeared during the hiring process, what would they have done? Hire him regardless? Or hired someone else?

        1. BCW*

          It depends. If he was convicted, he probably wouldn’t have gotten the job. If he was arrested then later acquitted, he might have. Different states have different laws about whether an arrest without a conviction can be held against you.

          1. annie*

            “Different states have different laws about whether an arrest without a conviction can be held against you.” – Not really, as we have learned time and again on this blog, ANYTHING can be held against you… color of the tie you wear, brand of purse you carry into the interview, they find your voice too nasally, etc. Once information is out there, you cannot control someone’s reaction – conscious or not – to that information. This is why many places ask if you have ever been convicted of a federal crime, to weed out (pun intended Alison!) some of the more minor crimes or times someone was just arrested and not convicted.

            Anyway, it sounds like this guy brought a girlfriend to a business trip where that would not be normal (based on the OP’s letter), which would be strike number one. Causing a disturbance, even if it was the girlfriend’s fault and he is the victim, would be strike two. Having the hotel comp all the rooms on the floor – which I am sure means that organization is no longer welcome at that hotel – would be strike three. And we’re not even getting into the question of what actually happened, and the population he works with.

            1. fposte*

              “Not really, as we have learned time and again on this blog, ANYTHING can be held against you.”

              No, BCW is correct that this is a matter where the law sometimes intervenes–several states have laws involving arrest records, crimes, and how they’re allowed to be considered when it comes to employment.

              However, as AAM notes, in this case they wouldn’t have to fire the employee for being arrested–they could simply fire him for his behavior at a conference.

              1. TheSnarkyB*

                No, this doesn’t work in the same way here – not when you’re dealing with a vulnerable population and you have to pass certain markers beyond what would be normal for a different type of job.
                We don’t know, from the info given by OP, whether he is in one of those jobs, but it was sort of hinted at.
                I’m thinking of jobs like teaching, therapy, domestic violence advocacy work, etc. where things like this can be held against you bc of the rigidity of their screening processes.

                1. RG*

                  But using evidence of arrest without resulting conviction doesn’t allow for due process.

                  I would find a screening process that denies on the basis of an arrest along, without any resulting conviction to be suspect. Some one can be arrested without having committed the offense. And not everyone is who is arrested is convicted (rightly or wrongly). At least in the justice system.

                  The court of public opinion is something else – but that shows up on Google, not a criminal background check.

                2. fposte*

                  I agree that the situation matters–just pointing out that the law does in fact have an opinion in some states as to whether an arrest can count, so it’s not as simple as “anything can be held against you.”

                3. Joey*

                  It would be unreasonable for an employers Due process include the legal due process. Don’t they have the right to make reasonable conclusions about an employees conduct on their own?

                4. fposte*

                  RG, I think hiring is a different matter from retention of an existing employee (and most of the laws do, too). You get to fire an employee for stealing from you even if you don’t press charges, as Joey says; she may not even have been arrested in that case, but it’s still legitimate to fire her.

              2. annie*

                You’re right, I wasn’t being clear – my point is that most employees are at will and there’s many things that you could say to explain why you did not hire someone, when the real reason is that you don’t want to hire an ex-con. I don’t necessarily think this is right, and obviously raises lots of questions about discrimination, but my point is you can’t “un-know” information, especially in a situation like this where it was witnessed by others.

            2. sunny-dee*

              Except most background checks don’t show arrests without a charge, and the OP never says that Joe was charged or went to trial. (The implication is that he did not.)

              It is very, very common for a man to be arrested in a domestic dispute to remove him from the situation, even if there was nothing more than shouting (or, sometimes, even if the woman is the aggressor). It’s possible that Joe never hit or threatened anyone, and it really was just a noisy drunken fight.

              1. amaranth16*

                Then he shouldn’t have had a noisy drunken fight with his girlfriend. He shouldn’t have been drinking on a work trip, he shouldn’t have assaulted her, he shouldn’t have caused (or participated in) a disturbance while on a business trip. If that was too hard, he shouldn’t have brought her. The company had to spend thousands of dollars because of his bad behavior, and they are losing business because of him. He should have been fired already.

              2. Callie*

                But it was a noisy drunken fight that cost the company money, because the hotel comped the rooms of everyone on the floor at the company’s expense!

          2. Chinook*

            It is important to note, too, that you can be arrested and released without charge (atleast in Canada). DH the cop has dealt with domestic abuse a lot and finds that there are often 3 sides to the story (hers, his and the truth) and they can’t figure it out until everyone calms down. So, they may arrest both parties, find out what happenned and the choose to let one or both parties go.

            Now, causing such a commotion at a work event should be firing offense but the OP has no way of knowing what happened unless she was in the room. As unlikely as it sounds, maybe the coworker got verbally angry because girlfriend got in a fight with someone else?

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      “and yes its questionable whether alone time on a business trip is on or off the clock”

      This was my thought too. Getting arrested during a business trip – and in front of co-workers and partners – doesn’t really seem like “personal time” even if it occurred back at the hotel during the evening. Further, the OP said that their organization was charged for the entire floor’s hotel rooms because of the disruption Joe made. That seems to bring it even further away from “personal time.”

      1. BCW*

        Thats fair, but it goes back to my question, if this wasn’t a domestic issue, and was just an issue of Joe got into a fight at the hotel bar while on a business trip, would you still think he should be fired? Maybe you would. I think for a lot of people though, that would make the issue more of a grey area, especially based on the reason for the fight.

        If the guy is convicted of domestic violence, then sure, I say go ahead and fire him. But it seems like people heard a lot of commotion, but don’t really know what happened in the room. Maybe he just went crazy with jealousy. Maybe she threw a glass at him and started swinging and he restrained her. Thats why an arrest doesn’t equal a conviction.

        I’m not a fighter by an means, I can count the number of times I’ve been in a fight on one hand. However, I have worked with people who have gotten in legal trouble for domestic issues (long story, but he never struck her), but they were fine at their job, and I never felt unsafe and didn’t think they should have ben fired.

        1. iseeshiny*

          “The incident took place in his hotel room, and several of my coworkers, a few managers (but not his manager) and several employees of partner organizations witnessed it because they were staying on the same floor. The incident was so loud and disturbing that the hotel actually comped everyone on the floor’s night’s stay at our organization’s expense.”

          It sounds like he committed domestic violence on a business trip. It’s not like one cancels out the other; they’re not actually mutually exclusive.

          1. BCW*

            But by “witnessed” it means they heard something. No one saw anything as far as I can tell. So all people know is that there was a very loud commotion and he was arrested.

              1. BCW*

                But it happened in his hotel room according to the story. And maybe I’m making assumptions, but I doubt he beat his girlfriend with the door wide open, which is why I’m guessing it was more they “heard” than they saw. I could be wrong.

              2. Laufey*

                According to the dictionary, yes, but that’s not how it’s always used in practice. Since the OP’s letter focuses on sounds, it’s possible he was just an aural witness.

              3. BCW*

                Not necessarily. You could call a witness who said they heard 3 gunshots come from next door. They didn’t see it, but what they heard could be used as witness testimony to make a case. Thats why I’m questioning what exactly they saw vs. what they heard.

            1. KellyK*

              Depending on what they heard, it might be blatantly obvious what happened, though. You seem to be making the assumption that unless they physically watched him hit her, they don’t have any reason to conclude that that was the case. If they heard yelling and swearing, and a loud impact, and saw her running out of the hotel room holding her nose with blood streaming down her face, I think they can connect the dots.

              1. Us, Too*

                I don’t think what you describe is blatantly obvious at all. Blood streaming down her face could be caused by something other than her being struck in the face by him. For example, she could have lunged at him and tripped and bashed her face on the coffee table.

                I’m with BCW on this – I don’t imagine that the coworkers who “witnessed” this witnessed more than a series of loud noises followed by the arrest itself.

                At any rate, I do think he could be fired for causing a scene and damaging relationships with customers/staff/etc.

                1. Us, Too*

                  I’ve heard and seen a domestic violence situation go down. My mother was beaten in front of me by my stepfather when I was in 4th grade. I’ve also been on the receiving end of a violent spouse who trashed our home, but never laid a hand on me. I know how it “goes down” and I’m not naive about it. My neighbors would have concluded I was being beaten when I wasn’t. And my mom actually was battered but our neighbors never heard a thing because he was strangling her – she couldn’t scream.

                  Despite and because of my personal history, I could never claim to know what happened in a room when I only heard something. I’d happily testify to what I heard, but wouldn’t be comfortable making any claims beyond that.

                2. Us, Too*

                  My point is only that nobody actually knows what happened IN the room except the people who were actually IN the room. However, I’d still can this guy because he created a disturbance that financially damaged the company and upset clients and employees. There’s no need to engage in any sort of speculative rumor-mongering on that front.

                3. iseeshiny*

                  I’m sorry that happened to you.

                  I stand by my original statement – sometimes it’s pretty obvious.

                4. KellyK*

                  True, I gave a bad example. A better would be if they heard *him* yelling something threatening, her saying “Please don’t,” loud impacts followed by her crying. That should be pretty obvious. (My point being that they could’ve heard anything from general commotion where there’s no way to know who did what, to something really obvious. Your eyes are not the only sense that allow you any level of certainty about events.)

        2. Just a Reader*

          I absolutely think he would need to be fired for getting into a fight at a bar on a business trip. It shows poor judgment and a lack of control.

          While you’re traveling on the company dime, you’re representing the company even outside of business hours. That means you need to be very very careful if you’re going to hit someone or do coke or get a hooker or whatever questionable behavior you enjoy on your own time.

          1. Ethyl*

            Yeah no kidding. For whom would that be a grey area except for someone who actually got into a fight on….ohhhhh wait.

          2. Artemesia*

            Exactly. And in this case the company had to comp rooms of other disturbed guests. THAT alone whether it was him drunkenly busting up a room by himself, getting into a brawl or beating up his girlfriend is plenty to fire him.

            The hotel held this guy responsible. So should the company.

          3. Lindsay J*

            +1. Hearing about an adult getting into a fight anywhere – whether it be a bar fight, a road rage incident, whatever – would make me seriously doubt their judgement and professionalism.

            Usually (now I understand this is not always the case, but I will stand by usually) there is a way to deescalate or remove yourself from a situation before it comes to blows.

            If it happened on a business trip or otherwise on company time there would have to be exceptional circumstances for me to not fire them.

            I feel like a bar fight may even be less of a gray area than a domestic situation, honestly.

        3. Ruffingit*

          If this wasn’t a domestic issue, and was just an issue of Joe got into a fight at the hotel bar while on a business trip, would you still think he should be fired?

          Yes, I would because Joe has shown that he cannot appropriately conduct himself on business trips. Assaulting anyone for whatever reason would be a problem for me in terms of how my company looks to those we partner with. I would not want my possible clients, who are staying at the hotel with Joe, to think I hire violent people who cannot control themselves. Whether Joe hit his girlfriend or the male bartender wouldn’t matter to me at all. It’s the fact that he turned violent at all that would be a problem.

        4. NylaW*

          I would feel the same way. Alcohol is not an excuse for bad behavior.

          The only exception to this entire situation that there should ever be is self defense.

        5. Anna*

          Maybe, but was his specific job working with a vulnerable population who might have gone through this very exact situation? Probably not. I work with a vulnerable population, some of whom are minors, and if I were arrested for providing alcohol to minors, I would not have a job. Why? Because my off the clock decision making would put in to question my decision making on the job specifically because of the population I work with.

        6. KellyK*

          I think getting in a fight on a business trip, making the company look bad and costing them money is *definitely* worth firing someone over. I wouldn’t want to see someone get fired if it was clearly and blatantly self-defense, but other than that, yes.

          1. Katieinthemountains*

            Exactly – I wouldn’t fire for his criminal record, but for his judgment. He’s a liability and OP is already reporting fallout from this incident.

          2. TL*

            Yeah, the fact that the organization had to pay for the whole floor’s rooms because of one employee’s behavior is a good reason to fire someone.

        7. Anonymous*

          “nd was just an issue of Joe got into a fight at the hotel bar while on a business trip, would you still think he should be fired?”


          Even people who are good at compartmentalizing are still one person. If this person is capable of violence and extremely poor judgement, then he’s capable of that on the job. That is a reality.

          In this case, the fact that is that it IS affecting his job, for obvious reasons. And the fact that the boss doesn’t see it as an issue is a huge issue in itself.

    3. Steve*

      I used to work with a guy who was arrested at work for domestic abuse – THREE cop cars with lights flashing came screeching into the parking lot, they approached him with weapons drawn, handcuffed him and hauled him away. He couldn’t get out on bail, so the company fired him citing job abandonment.

      When he finally went to trial, it came to light that there were years of spousal abuse going on at his house. Everyone was surprised to learn that SHE was beating HIM. The one time that he feared for his life and fought back, he broke her arm. Her father was the small town’s chief of police and did his best to nail this guy to the wall – but he beat all the charges in court. He ended up moving away when it was all over, but I often think of him and try to remember that there really are two sides to every story.

      1. Anonymous*

        Those situations do happen and should not be forgotten, but for every time one party lies about domestic abuse, there’s hundreds more that are true yet no one takes them seriously, no one gets arrested, etc.

        1. Anna*

          Not to mention this is a very bizarre situation in which the chief of police was trying to get the victim in trouble because of family ties. Most abusers don’t have that sort of power behind them and rarely are victims put on trial to shut them up.

      2. BCW*

        Thats kind of what I was getting at. I’d say in a domestic violence situation, more often then not, the guy is arrested first, and the facts come out later. Many times the guy DID in fact do it, but as you said, thats not always the case. So just because it caused a commotion, doesn’t mean the guy was necessarily guilty.

        1. NylaW*

          You can say this about a lot of situations though. There are many times where law enforcement acts first and asks questions later, whether that’s the right or wrong reaction is debatable and very much a case by case thing.

          1. BCW*

            I agree with that. But thats why, in my opinion, they should wait to see if he is convicted of something. If I was accused of stealing something, then it turned out I didn’t, it would be irresponsible of my job to fire me before that. Maybe suspend me pending the outcome, but not fire me.

            1. NylaW*

              Then I think the communication should have been that they are waiting to see what the end result is, and not “oh Joe was just drunk”, as if that’s a valid excuse for assaulting someone. If what the OP says management said is true, then it comes across like they aren’t taking the situation seriously. I think at a minimum Joe could have been suspended (maybe with pay), or had his duties shifted so he’s not as front facing and potentially putting the company at risk. Obviously their partners see this as enough of a serious issue that they feel they should stop referring clients.

            2. Ruffingit*

              I agree with you. My comments above about firing Joe are contingent on his having been convicted of this. Unless the OP was in the room when this happened and witnessed it personally, she can’t possibly know what happened. Hearing something is not the same as seeing it. This could have been self-defense of something else entirely. Now, if Joe was convicted, then you’ve got a different situation entirely and he should be fired. Just arrested though? No, it wouldn’t be fair to fire him for that otherwise tons of people would be jobless for arrests where charges were dropped.

              1. Sophia*

                Regardless of whether he is convicted, he has damaged the company (companies are not going with them because of this incident etc)

            3. Joey*

              The biggest problem with waiting to see if he’s convicted is you probably have to wait a very long time before its all over legally. Lots of companies aren’t comfortable with such a long “in limbo” status.

              Ive had to do this before- fire someone who was arrested at the job site. For me though it was the exposure and how it might impact his ability to interact with clients-it was a pretty ugly allegation which ended up being on the news.

              1. Ethyl*

                Plus, the rumors are already impacting the business regardless of whether he “really” did it or not. That alone is cause for firing, aside from bringing his gf to a work trip and getting into whatever kind of loud altercation it was.

              2. fposte*

                Yes. You have the strong likelihood that your employee committed the kind of violence that you’re trying to help people out of. Even if you don’t think that’s enough information to fire him on, it’s plenty to put him on leave/suspension.

            4. Joey*

              Why should they wait for a conviction? If I was pretty sure you stole from me I wouldn’t wait for the courts to convict you before I fired you. Id probably fire you as soon as I made the conclusion. As an employer what’s so bad about that?

              1. doreen*

                Yes, even the restriction prohibiting discrimination based on arrest in the states that have them sort of presuppose that the potential employer has no other knowledge of the incident. I may not be able to refuse to hire you becasue you were arrested but not convicted of stealing- but that doesn’t mean I can’t refuse to hire you because I saw you steal from our previous employer.

              2. BCW*

                But I’m guessing you’d have some kind of proof that they were stealing before you fired them right? From what I’m reading, there isn’t proof he did anything. Him getting arrested (doesn’t even mention charged) isn’t proof. Now I see what you are saying about damaging reputation, but the stealing that you mention isn’t exactly the same

                1. fposte*

                  People are fired on suspicion of stealing all the time, though.

                  I don’t know the actual situation, and I’m not clear on what exactly the OP knows, so I’m not saying this particular Joe should be fired right away. But I think the welfare of service clients comes before Joe’s welfare here, and I wouldn’t wait until the court case worked through in two years to minimize the effect of such a situation on the clients.

                2. Joey*

                  Proof in the legal sense, not necessarily. Reasonable suspicion is plenty justified. And in his case it’s not necessary to even go there. I’d be more worried about him costing me the charges for the whole floor and the distraction I would anticipate if he returns to work.

              3. Cindy*

                I worked for a small non-profit company in the late 70s as the receptionist, when I was 18. One day a woman who worked with the clients left an envelope with over $200 cash on my desk. I didn’t even know she left it there because I was hard at work, and she never told me about it. An hour later she came over to pick it up and it was gone. She, and the other five people who worked there, all “knew” I was a thief. With 100% certainty. For the next three days I came in to work they all looked at me with total disgust. My protests made things worse, and created more disgust. Like I said they knew with 100% certainty that I was a thief. On the fourth day, a bogus check came in from the bank, written by the accountant, the true thief. I quit the job shortly afterwards, but never forgot how it feels when someone knows for sure that you are a thief.

            5. Jamie*

              But thats why, in my opinion, they should wait to see if he is convicted of something.

              I don’t understand this – people don’t get convicted all the time even though they committed an illegal act. Plea bargains, errors in how the case was handled, whatever.

              If there are witnesses who saw him behaving violently why do you need a court to confirm that? If I throw a stapler through a window because an upgrade is going badly I’d be fired even before the ink was dry on the police report.

              1. Ruffingit*

                It’s unclear what was witnessed here though. Sure, if you saw it that’s one thing, but here they just heard it, which means Joe could be the victim, they can’t really know for sure.

    4. Sunflower*

      Hmm the OP never clarifies whether the higher-up knows that Joe’s actions have caused the company to lose business because that would be a huge deal I would think. At least something warranting a conversation with Joe

    5. Artemesia*

      A person who does outreach to vulnerable populations should particularly not have a background of domestic violence. This is ‘not exposing the organization to potential liability’ and ‘not putting clients at risk’ 101. This behavior should end his employment. (just getting drunk and behaving badly, maybe not — but assault — absolutely).

      And if this is well enough known that clients are avoiding the organization — well that alone is enough. He is damaging the organization.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I agree with the personal time thing. However, Joe did this on a business trip. His behavior on that trip, whether off the clock or on, is perceived as representative of his company and he lost them business because of it.

      If he hadn’t hit anyone and had done something else–for example, taking off his clothes and running around the hotel lobby starkers singing the national anthem at the top of his lungs–and that behavior cost the company clients, then absolutely they should consider termination.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly. If you’re on a business trip whether working or not, you’re A: representing the company 24/7 whether actively working or not, and B: Doing so on the company’s dime. As far as I’m concerned if I’m the company you shouldn’t be getting drunk when at a place you represent me. Period. I don’t care what you do, whether you’re a quiet drunk, a nasty one, or someone who passes out. If you can’t control yourself for the few days you’re on a business trip, I don’t want you working for me. All I need is for you to drive drunk or do something stupid and open the company up to liability. Drink all you want when you’re home or off work on the weekends. If you come to work drunk I’ll deal with you, what you do on your OWN time is your own business. But a business trip even if you’re technically not working 24/7 is really NOT your own time in the same totally free concept as being on holiday or at home after work is.

        1. Jessa*

          To add a point I just thought of – I am not talking about the type of workers who are put up at company expense on a job site (IE oil rig workers, construction people, fishers, etc.) In that case I do believe being off work, is being off work. You’re not at a “business trip” meeting customers or attending a convention. That’s actually your housing. That’s different. That should be treated just as if you were living on your own.

    7. TheSnarkyB*

      BCW, I think this is a real, big stretch to say that “people act differently at work than they do the rest of the time” can be applied to thing like violent crimes like this. Also, you seem to completely neglect the validity of his coworkers’ current feelings toward him.
      If we set aside the parsing of facts for a moment and assume that this is what it sounds like, that he was violent towards his girlfriend and everyone knows about it, that isn’t…. weekend behavior.
      Yes, people act differently at work, i.e. they may be more rambunctious, outgoing, etc. in their weekend lives. I think it’s entirely ridiculous to posit that this at all similar to those who is, say, a total slob on the weekends and wakes up on Saturday morning with a slice of pizza still on his belly but neat, clean, and professional at work. This is not simply an act that took place, this says something about the person who committed that act, assuming that it took place as reported.
      He doesn’t have to have had any aggressive behaviors towards his coworkers for them to think of him differently now. Their sense of safety and relative discomfort is an important factor here, too.

      1. BCW*

        Look, as I said, I’m not a fighter. However I know people who are some of the nicest people you could meet at work, and they are ready to fight once they are out drinking. So for me, to say if they would fight someone at a bar, you can easily conclude that would lead to violence at work, I think thats absurd. If you rounded up all of the people who got into a fight at say Mardi Gras, I can bet that many of those people have never showed any violence at work. They are very separate things.

        1. TL*

          There’s a huge difference between getting into a fight at a bar on a Saturday night and getting into a fight with your significant other on a work trip.

          1. BCW*

            Thats a fair point. I was just trying to argue that because someone does (whatever bad thing) at home and probably has done this for years, to say that just because you now know about it that there is a bigger chance of them bringing that to work is just not true. Was bringing the GF bad judgment? Probably. Aside from that, there isn’t much more to go on. So because him and the girl have a dysfunctional relationship that may or may not have involved assault, to say that this guy is all of a sudden a bad co-worker who is unsafe to be around now is a reach for me.

            1. KellyK*

              It’s not that knowing about it means there’s a bigger chance of it being brought to work. It has *already* been brought to work.

            2. aebhel*

              At the very least, he had a loud drunken fight with his girlfriend within earshot of his coworkers. He was then arrested, and his girlfriend was injured.

              Is that enough for the coworkers to convict him in a court of law? No. But it’s enough–more than enough, IMO–to decide that they are not comfortable working with him.

              I don’t get this insistence that drunken brawling on a business trip should have no adverse consequences for the employee in question. That’s, like, ‘workplace etiquette 101’.

              1. Melissa*

                This, 100%. Personally I think even if you get arrested on your own personal time for drunken brawling on Saturday night, you’re still fireable. If you know that you start swinging when you start drinking, stop drinking!

        2. Windchime*

          Even if the arrest hadn’t happened, this is a guy who clearly behaved inappropriately at work by causing a huge amount of noise, drinking too much and bringing his girlfriend on a work trip (assuming that is out of the ordinary for this company, which it sounds like it was). That, to me, is enough to cause his co-workers and the company to doubt his judgement. People generally don’t have excellent judgement at work and horrible judgement after hours; at least the people that I know seem to be pretty consistant in this regard.

        3. Li*

          I’m… pretty sure you need to find new people to hang out with.
          Even accepting that someone’s character changes entirely when they’re inebriated, it’s incumbent upon them to alter their habits so that they do not find themselves in a position where they might act violently. Believe me, I understand that some people grapple with alcoholism, so it may not be as simple for them to just step away from drinking. But that’s not their employer’s problem.
          And seriously, find new people to hang out with. They are not the nicest people you could me. Fo’real.

          1. BCW*

            Seriously, don’t pretend to know me, my friends, or judge who I should and shouldn’t be friends with. I’m betting their are people in your life who, behind closed doors, are very different than what you see. Get off your moral high horse

            1. Zillah*

              I agree that Li put that very poorly, but at the same time, I think their overarching point – that if (general) you know that you get violent when you drink, you ought to stop drinking – is a good one. There can be serious societal repercussions for violent behavior, even if you remove employers from the equation.

              I also think that “people can be different behind closed doors” isn’t really a statement that works here. There are a lot of ways in which people can be different, and an unusual fetish is not the same thing as violent behavior.

            2. Anna*

              It’s time to step back. It might be better not to point fingers about moral high horses since it appears you might be defending someone who probably beat up his girlfriend and at the very least irritated a whole floor of people and lost his company some business. Just sayin’.

        4. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

          I absolutely agree. My Grandfather used to get into fist fights every weekend (with his co-workers no less, at my grandmother’s dinner parties no less!) but it did not affect his work or anything else… it was just what mining engineers DID in the 60s (or so my mother says). I’m sure he slugged his own boss a few times.

          I’m not saying it was good or right, but it wasn’t indicative of anything amiss in his work (or family for that matter).

          1. Jessa*

            And that was a different era. It doesn’t really translate today. It’s like watching Mad Men or living through the 60s and realising that they were able to treat people in ways you cannot do today. Because times and mores change.

            1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

              With respect, I was using the example to make a different point.

              The poster (BCW) I was replying to was himself replying to comments along the lines that people should be judged by their off-duty behaviour, because that must perforce foreshadow problems on-duty.

              I was using my family member as an example where his off-duty conduct had no bearing on his work.

              1. Anna*

                Right, but that has absolutely no bearing on this situation and I can’t really understand why BCW and others are conflating the two. A guy who gets in to fist fights with people at bars and works in a rough and tumble industry is one situation. A guy who is arrested on a business trip for what looks like domestic violence, thereby losing his company business and forcing the company to pay out a bunch of money in appeasement to the disturbed guests, and works with vulnerable people who have probably suffered some form of abuse themselves is an entirely different situation and does not fit in with the “weekend behavior man is different than work behavior man” scenario BCW keeps arguing. Nobody is arguing that ALL weekend behavior should be held against an employee; however, there are certain times when it should be because it actually does reflect how well you can perform your job duties. This is one of those times.

    8. Xay*

      When you are on a business trip, you are representing your employer at all times. That’s why it’s probably not a good idea to get falling down drunk, trash your hotel room or beat your girlfriend while on business travel. Lots of people do these things on business trips, but it doesn’t make those actions right or appropriate.

      Now, considering the employer had to comp everyone’s room because of this incident, this is absolutely a fireable offense anywhere that I have worked. That said, I think management is making excuses not to fire Joe – which is indicative of a leadership and management problem.

    9. Anonymous*

      I deeply, deeply disagree about your stance on domestic violence here.
      But completely and totally removing that from the equation?

      He should still be fired.

      1. He’s clearly not able to behave in a professional manner in a professional environment. (When you are in a hotel with coworkers for a conference you are in a professional environment.) A physical fight is really only acceptable if you work in the WWE, and then only when you follow the script on camera.
      2. He’s creating a problem for customers. If you had a sales guy and you were getting fewer people to buy from your company because of that sales guy you’d fire him. Same thing here.

    10. Melissa*

      “However, as I’ve stated many times, I also think at a person’s behavior off the clock (and yes its questionable whether alone time on a business trip is on or off the clock) shouldn’t be a determining factor in their job.”

      Really? Ever? What if you knew a person was robbing houses, or running a nationwide Ponzi scheme, or was a serial killer? I think the idea that you should NEVER be fired unless something impacts your ability to work is kind of absurd. A person can be a great salesperson, for example, and maybe earns triple what the next salesperson down does – but if they’re rude to everyone in the office, make grown men cry, and repeatedly break the law outside of the office, they are NOT a good employee. They are creating internal tensions and causing the company to look bad.

      Getting into a fight with someone in a bar over the weekend shows poor judgment; while I think the circumstances will determine the situation I don’t see any reason to be upset about firing someone over that. And yes, I think you *should* get fired if you get into a fight with a random person on a business trip, absolutely, even if they call you a racial slur. You’re an adult; you have to use correct judgment and realize that hitting another person doesn’t solve problems and reflects badly on you and the company. (And I’m African American, so I understand the pain of being called a racial slur. Doesn’t mean you should hit someone over it on a business trip.)

      And as a woman, I would certainly feel unsafe with a person I WATCHED (or saw the aftermath, or heard) get drunk enough that he got into a violent confrontation with his girlfriend and hit her. Absolutely.

  4. NylaW*

    This seems like something that actually falls under non-work related conduct someone should be fired for, instead of all the firings for socially acceptable activities posted on Facebook. OP, I don’t blame you for feeling unsafe and being concerned for your clients. I hope you get some movement on this from your bosses.

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        Since OP mentions this guy works directly with some domestic abuse victims, I wonder if OP could bring it up as a legal concern: as in, “I don’t want the whole company to get sued if this comes to light so how should we proceed?” kind of thing.

        1. Ruffingit*

          What would the company be sued for though? This guy works with people who MAY have domestic violence issues. It’s not a known thing from what the OP states. I’m absolutely for Joe being fired because he’s violent and can’t conduct himself appropriately on business trips, but framing this as a legal concern is not the best way to go when you can’t be clear what that concern is. I think there’s a better way to frame this with the ED and Alison gave some good advice on that.

          1. NylaW*

            Perhaps thenoiseinspace was trying to say that if one of their clients claims abuse happened it would look very bad for the company if it becomes known that they employ someone who was arrested for domestic violence.

            1. Ruffingit*

              It could look bad for them yes. But from a legal standpoint, convictions are usually what you’re looking at otherwise everyone who was ever arrested for DV even if charges were dropped would have a hard time being employed. That is one important component here that would be helpful to know – was Joe convicted of this?

          2. Katie the Fed*

            I don’t know – I think there’s some potential liability there. If Joe is a sexual harrasser, or if he ever gets into an altercation with a coworker – the company increases its liability by allowing him to remain employed there when they know he’s a risk.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Sure, but again was Joe convicted? Though we certainly have a public system of guilty until proven innocent (though we claim otherwise), the fact is that if Joe isn’t convicted of this, he’s not a “known offender.” He’s just someone who was arrested for this, which a lot of people have been then charges dropped, etc. So it all really hinges on whether he was convicted of it.

              1. NylaW*

                I think as a company you have to decide if you even want the appearance of liability/impropriety. Your customers probably won’t care enough to find out if someone who works for you was actually convicted if the charges were serious enough.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  Yeah, agreed, but that’s a company decision not a “Joe is a known liability and thus the company could have legal issues if they continue to employ him” issue.

                2. fposte*

                  I’d also differentiate by saying you may have an appearance of impropriety, but I don’t think there’s an appearance of liability.

              2. Chinook*

                Ruffingit, let me echo what you said – we don’t even know if he was charged! Being led out by cops doesn’t equal guilty, it means that there is a suspicion of something happenning. Now, if it turns out that Joe was protecting himself from his abuser (he did bring GF on the trip – maybe she didn’t want him to be away from her), then you have punished the victim for protectinng himself.

                This is why knowing if he is charged is so import – thhe professionals who have seen this before and can smell the BS are the ones who have the experience and right to judge him (this basedd on my experience that Canadian cops in general are professional and can’t stand wife beaters and that only the notable exceptions get the press)

                1. Windchime*

                  I dunno; people are fired all the time for behavior that’s not criminal or illegal. So I’m not sure why that matters in this case. He behaved unprofessionally, he caused a financial hit for the company, and now clients don’t want to see him. That, to me, is the trifecta of unprofessional behavior.

            2. fposte*

              But there’s nothing to suggest that’s truer of Joe than anybody else there–nobody’s saying he sexually harassed anybody or argued with a co-worker. I don’t really see their liability.

      2. TheSnarkyB*

        Actually, NylaW, your full on, no holds barred italices cracked me up and I am now picturing someone saying this all in the most intense way possible.

  5. MK*

    I am not sure that the organization is making a real mistake about the law; I think there are two other possibilities. When the executive director says that he “can’t be fired”, he may not mean it would be illegal; it could be just the company policy not to fire someone for non-work related behavior or that the company doesn’t consider it fair. Alternatively, he may know it’s legal, but used this common misconception as a convienient reason not answer the complaints.

    As for whether someone should be fired for non-work related behavior, I believe that should be considered case by case. In this particular case, this person, for whatever reason, created a disturbance (that made calling the police necessary) on a business trip and this behavior has affected the company. I think the OP is right to be concerned about the lack of response from management. I am not saying the man should have been automatically fired, but there should have been some visible sign that the company is taking this seriously. A manager saying he was a good guy who had too much to drink is a) dismissive of highly problematic behavior and b) condoning drunken violence (by the way, lots of people drink too much on occassion without becoming violent, so I don’t get why this is supposed to be an excuse).

  6. Katie the Fed*

    Good lord.

    IANAL but I can’t even imagine the liability the company assumes by keeping this guy employed. If he ever has a violent incident with a coworker the coworker would be easily able to demonstrate that the company knew and allowed this person to continue to work, putting employees in jeopardy.

    And yeah, they can/should fire the guy for creating a scene at the conference and making the company pay for everyone’s rooms on the floor. You can get fired for anything that makes the company look bad. Hell, you can get fired for the boss not liking the shoes you’re wearing (as long as it’s not due to you being in a protected class).

    The CEO is an idiot. And the defense of “he’s a good guy” is total bullshit.

    1. Ruffingit*

      That’s a question I asked above as well because a lot hinges on that. It’s one thing to say he’s a liability to the company because they know he’s an offender, but they can only call him that if he’s been convicted of the offense. Otherwise, everyone who’s arrested for DV regardless of being convicted of it would have a hard time getting employed because companies would see them as a possible liability.

      1. Sophia*

        But IMO, it doesn’t matter if he’s convicted. He’s already a liability because he’s cost the company potential clients, created an unsafe work environment and the organization had to comp everyone’s stay.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yes, a liability to the company certainly, but I was talking liability in a legal sense, which was discussed up above a bit.

          The fact that this incident has caused a loss of potential clients is something the company needs to look at and decide how to handle. I agree that it is enough of a problem for Joe to be fired, but I wouldn’t say I’d fire him because he was arrested for DV (again, that hinges on conviction for me).

          This is a difficult issue for me to navigate personally. I don’t want to go around thinking it’s OK to fire people for being arrested when they haven’t been convicted. That just seems unfair since a number of people, especially for DV issues, are arrested and then charges dropped because it turns out they were not the aggressors or what have you.

          At the same time, this incident has hurt the business so the company needs to be looking at that as a problem. I think that is the tact I’d take here as management. “Joe, you chose to bring your girlfriend to the conference, which was poor judgment since one or both of you apparently is violent. Can’t pass judgment on which of you that is, but I will say that your actions caused us to lose business, so we have to let you go.”

          I’m more comfortable with that scenario than saying “He was arrested, fire him based solely on that without a clue as to whether he actually did this or not.”

          1. Sophia*

            But I don’t think anyone in this thread is saying “fire him based solely on that without a clue…”

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              But they are. They are saying being arrested means he’s a liability. Where I am, if the police are called for a domestic violence, they automatically take one away, I presume with an arrest. They don’t try that hard to figure out who is most at fault, they just diffuse the situation by removing one party. That does NOT make that party guilty in any way. Only the conviction makes them guilty.

              So, there are a lot of suggestions that he should be fired because they are assuming he is guilty. That’s pretty harsh. (Of course, I’m taking this side as someone whose father was fired after an arrest (not DV), and who had to fight to get his job back after the charges were dropped.)

              1. Chinook*

                Exactly. DH, now a cop, once had a girlfriend call the cops on him because he was breaking up with her. He took his wallet and sat outside, waiting for them to come and then had to ezxplain that she was lying, he wouldn’t risk his top secret security clearance over a woman, and that he lived there and she didn’t (and ha proof). This conversation was held in the back of the cop car. Outsiders wouldd have thought he was the one being arrested, especially since she wasn’t taken away (though he did wait in the back of the cop car until a cab showed up for her).

              2. fposte*

                I don’t think people are saying simply because he was arrested, though–if he’d been arrested at his own home that would have been a significant difference right there. I think they’re saying it because there’s considerable onsite evidence to suggest that there was violence and that he wasn’t simply the victim, and because management seems to believe he was violent as well. Even if it was a “he gave as a good as he got” situation, I think discipline up to and including firing is kosher.

                I actually think it would be a much harder call if he’d been arrested out of his own home, and I’m not sure what I’d do–find out if the case was being prosecuted, for a start, I suppose.

                1. Zillah*

                  Absolutely. IMO, it would be a different matter if he’d been arrested at home, but in this situation, a lot of the people he works with overheard this. We don’t know what they heard, but I can envision a lot of situations in which it would be clear to them that he was the instigator and/or that his behavior crossed a line from overhearing the altercation.

      2. Bwmn*

        That could not be more irrelevant. If teachers can be fired (not saying they should….) for photos on facebook, then boiling this down to criminal conviction or not really has nothing to do with this. Innocent until proven guilty and all that is in regards to court, not an employer.

        The employer has staff that will testify to the employee being part of a domestic disturbance, there are employees from partner organizations that will testify to that – and will say that they are no longer referring clients due to that disturbance, and there is the hotel bill that had to be assumed by the organization. Had the police never been called, this would more than suffice for an organization to fire someone.

        Not to mention, if the organization is a nonprofit with a mission to help x vulnerable people. And because of this guy’s behavior, organizations have stopped referring x vulnerable people – then it is truly harming the primary cause of the being of the organization. If anything the arrest is just making this murky. Without the arrest, this would be a clear cause for firing.

        1. Anonymous*


          The issue is not guilt in the standard of court, but people’s perceptions of him, based on fairly reasonable conclusions, and how they are affecting the job he does.

          I doubt there is major legal liability. The only think I can think of is if he either loses is with someone and does damage, or does something that shows really, really bad judgement and causes damage, all during the normal course of his job, someone might point to the employer and say “hey, you KNEW that this guy had issues. Why did you leave him in this situation?”

    2. The OP*

      I’m the OP in this story. I would assume that the case is still moving through the justice system, although considering that Joe and his girlfriend are still together, I wouldn’t be surprised if the charges got dropped. I know that he was in jail long enough to miss his flight home the next day, but I’m not sure if he was ever charged.

  7. TheExchequer*

    If I were a manager, and I heard *several* reports from other managers *and* people under me that one of my employees had been an agressor in domestic violence to the point my company had to comp a hotel for the disturbance, I can’t imagine I would care where the incident took place. The agressor being good at their job would not be enough for me to keep them. Instant deal breaker.

      1. TheExchequer*

        In fact, we do know who the aggressor is. “Several of my coworkers, a few managers (but not his manager) and several employees of partner organizations witnessed it”.

        Is there a small, teeny, outside chance that things were not as they seemed? Sure. But the manager’s stance is not “Joe and I had a discussion about the behavior; things are more complicated than they appear”. It’s “he had too much to drink.” That’s the excuse. For real. Not okay.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I want to know what the OP means when she says they witnessed it. Does that mean they actually saw it or that they heard it? Those are two very different things.

          1. TheExchequer*

            I agree; it’s difficult to tell from the letter if the OP was a witness or is hearing the account second or third hand. However, regardless of how they *got* the report, the *explanation* from the manager is not appropriate. “He was just drunk” is inexcusable.

      2. Xay*

        A lot of employers wouldn’t care who the aggressor was. If you bring a guest on a business trip, they are bound to the same rules. So either you are so disruptive that you caused your employer to incur a huge unexpected expense or you had the extremely poor judgement to bring a guest that caused your employer to incur a huge unexpected expense. Either way, you are still responsible.

        1. TheExchequer*

          My judgment of whether or not Joe should be fired would change if, indeed, his girlfriend was the aggressor. My judgment of the management’s managing decisions would not.

        2. KellyK*

          That’s also a good point. Even if she’s the abuser, he’s still the one who brought her on the trip. (That’s not to say he’s to blame for being abused if that’s what happened—-of course not! But if someone you brought on a work trip for your own personal reasons causes a major disturbance, it’s completely reasonable for the employer to hold you responsible.

          1. KellyK*

            Wow, that sounded really victim-blaming. I’m sorry. I don’t think someone should be fired for being assaulted.

            What I was trying to get across, probably badly, is that if you bring a family member on a business trip, you’re taking responsibility for their behavior. If your kid stole office supplies, or your boyfriend got really drunk and insulted your boss, you could easily get fired for their actions.

      3. Anonymous*

        I don’t care who the aggressor was quite frankly. Don’t get into fights at work functions. This isn’t hard. Millions of people do it every day.

        1. TheExchequer*

          While I strongly agree with this as a general principle, you can’t always control what other people will do. I don’t think it’s fair to blame Joe if he’s a victim.

          1. Zillah*

            But he did bring the girlfriend in the first place. Even if she’s the problem, if she’s so disruptive that she loses the company clients, that’s a serious problem.

            1. TheExchequer*

              Agreed. Wouldn’t be as automatic a dismissal as if I found out Joe was the instigator, but we would be having Very Serious Discussions.

  8. Rachel - HR*

    Maybe, I’m reading it wrong but it sounds to me like some employees have raised his/her concerns with members of management and management has made their decision. I think pushing it further would probably only harm the OP.

    If partners are telling the OP directly that they don’t want to work with Joe, then the OP should encourage them to speak directly to management.

    1. Anna*

      I don’t agree with this at all. If the OP is advocating for her safety, she should push it as far as she can.

  9. Criminal Justice Employee*

    I think it’s important to note that the OP states Joe was arrested, not convicted.

    I’ve been part of many DV calls, often both parties are taken in. Sometimes we end up “arresting” the one that isn’t bleeding only to find out the other was the aggressor and the charges are actually brought against the other party who is later convicted.

    Sometimes law enforcement officers make snap decisions in the thick of things and when all the information is presented once the heat of the moment is over, the mistake comes to light.

    And it’s possible Joe’s boss knows more than he is sharing with other employees regarding what happened after things calmed down.

    1. iseeshiny*

      Or the girlfriend chose not to press charges.

      “And it’s possible Joe’s boss knows more than he is sharing with other employees regarding what happened after things calmed down.” – if that’s the case them management should publicly address it – allowing a misconception like that to continue is clearly affecting everyone’s ability to trust their coworker.

      1. Chinook*

        Canadian law doesn’t require the victim to press charges (though it is easier to get a conviction that way) because too many victims are scared. The police officer can lay charges based on their knowledge of the crime and, in fact, is obligated to do so because thre was a time not so long ago where these types of incidents weren’t taken seriously.

          1. fposte*

            They work pretty similarly, actually–it’s technically the prosecutor who presses charges in law, and they don’t wait around for a victim to file a report if they can make the case without one. (Otherwise murder cases would never be prosecuted.) The cops don’t wait for the victim to okay it before taking somebody away, and a victim’s choosing to change her mind after initially filing a report or making a 911 call doesn’t mean the case will get dropped.

            However, if there’s no witness, including the victim, willing to come forward, and the police weren’t there to see the interaction, the police aren’t going spend a lot of time on something that couldn’t be prosecuted.

            1. TL*

              Oh – I was under the impression that it worked a little differently, but, yeah, I guess I’ve heard about the victims refusing to come forward/press charges and just always assumed the cops couldn’t. But that make more sense.

            2. Anonymous*

              Depends on the area you’re in. My area of my state they’ll press charges without the victim’s consent because of some very bad domestic deaths that were publicized to get attitudes changed, but it’s not law where I’m at. Next state over, they’re not pressing charges unless the victim cooperates or the victim or someone is dead.

              1. fposte*

                Yes, a lot of this is dependent on individual jurisdiction practice. But it’s no longer a national norm that nobody will do anything unless the victim really pushes–legal boards are littered with people upset that when they called the police about being assaulted, they just wanted the cops to talk to their SO and instead he got arrested.

    2. Emily K*

      His manager is taking the stance that “he’s a good guy who had too much to drink”

      Doesn’t sound like he received any late-breaking news that Joe was actually not the aggressor.

        1. Ethyl*

          We’re talking about *firing* someone, not actually sending them to jail, which his boss and coworkers and the clients of the company cannot do. “Innocent until proven guilty,” “hearsay,” “evidence,” “conviction” — these are things that only matter in a courtroom/police station/lawyer’s office.

          The company can and should let him go because he is harming their business and has shown he can’t behave himself on a business trip — not only because he allowed himself to get sucked into whatever the disturbance was, but for bringing the girlfriend along in the first place and getting drunk.

          1. Criminal Justice Employee*

            This is true, but Emily K’s comment was regarding his guilt, not where or not he should be fired.

            The OP thinks he should be fired for several reasons, one of them is an assumption of his guilt and one of them is because of the harm to the company.

            There is no evidence of conviction, so that needs to be taken out of the equation. That is the point of my original comment.

            1. Emily K*

              My comment was not about his guilt – it was about whether it was likely that the managers had new, contradictory information that they were concealing from the staff. If they did, they wouldn’t be saying the equivalent of, “He did it, but it’s not a big deal.” They’d be saying something different like, “You don’t know the whole story,” or “We can’t comment on this at this time,” or “We are reviewing the information available,” or “We’ve made our decision,” or something other than trying to defend the alleged behavior.

              1. Ethyl*

                Yup. And honestly, people don’t get convicted of all kinds of crimes of all kinds of reasons, so holding that “he didn’t get convicted” means that “he didn’t hit his girlfriend” is not sound, and not concordant with the vast amounts of evidence we have about intimate partner violence.

                1. fposte*

                  Additionally, I feel like the Catholic Church and Penn State abuse tragedy/scandals are examples of what can happen if you hold out for conviction as the only fair standard.

                  (And on the other hand, you have Wenatchee to demonstrate that conviction ain’t all it’s cracked up to be either.)

                2. Zillah*

                  Yes. In a similar example, the majority of rapists in the United States never actually serve time for their crime in jail. Many are never even charged. Lack of conviction does not mean that a person is not a rapist.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I don’t think a conviction for DV is the bar we should be setting here.

      While away on a business trip, Joe made such a disturbance that the his company was required to pay for the entire floor’s hotel rooms. Further, the disturbance was witnessed by co-workers and by partners, who now have concerns about working with Joe. To me, that’s a fireable offense, even if the disturbance wasn’t violent.

      1. BCW*

        Yes, they are within their legal right to fire him now. I just don’t think they SHOULD if there was no conviction. If the company is ok footing the bill, then that is their call.

        1. Criminal Justice Employee*

          This was my point.

          Innocent people get arrested. Should there be long lasting negative impact to Joe IF this was the case?

          The OP only has surface level information regarding the outcome. It’s possible the manager has more info, is taking behind the scene action, and/or is doing nothing at all because he’s afraid of legal ramifications.

          There isn’t really enough info to hang Joe…. the question is what should the OP do about it. Allyson explained the misconception, true… but her last paragraph is key. If this is what mgmt has decided to do… OP can speak up about her feelings. Maybe mgmt will shed more light on the issue.

          1. Joey*

            Maybe there isn’t enough evidence in the legal sense, but there is enough evidence to conclude he’s an unnecessary distraction and his actions (at least in part) caused the expense of paying the charges of everyone on the floor.

            1. fposte*

              Right. I think some people are treating it as if you can’t make a decision about employment separate from a decision about the crime, and of course you can. Heck, it’s not uncommon for people to be let off easy by being fired for a crime rather than getting charges filed against them.

          2. Ann O'Nemity*

            But you’re making it sound like getting fired or facing negative consequences is only reasonable if Joe is convicted.

            I’m saying that Joe should be facing consequences for his actions, even if they did not result in a conviction or even an arrest. Fiona articulates this better below. It’s not the arrest; it’s the fact that Joe caused a scene on a business trip that has already (and may continue to) hurt the company.

            1. TheSnarkyB*

              Why is everyone here talking like the court system actually works and a conviction means “yes he did do this” and a non-conviction means “no he did not do this”?
              Management needs to have all of the information (it’s not illegal) and needs to make a decision asap, because if they consider all of this later and he doesn’t get convicted, then they fire him, how does that make sense?

        2. Bwmn*

          Had this same situation occurred but he not been arrested, this would still be beyond ample reason to fire someone. Especially given the reputation damage that has spread amongst partner organizations.

          And if he’s not being fired, as an employee – I would want to see what the company was doing with the employee and partner organizations to address the situation.

          I used to work for a legal nonprofit and we worked with other legal nonprofits on similar issues. If I was at an event where an employee got drunk and was loudly talking about clients by name in a public place, that’s information that I would have definitely told to my organization/referral department. Now depending on who that person was, what place in the organization etc. etc. – that organization might have to do huge damage control with other organizations to just to ensure the incident was a one time event, the employee was addressing her drinking/overall behavior, and perhaps that the employee might still be fired.

          No one would go to jail for that. No police involved (civil case/disbarring at the absolute worst legally). But the potential reputational damage for an organization could be huge.

          Minimizing this because Joe shouldn’t go to jail is absolutely ridiculous.

      2. Xay*

        Exactly. The DV issue is up to the courts but clearly Joe’s behavior was detrimental to the company and Joe’s fellow employees.

    4. Anonymous*

      Not important.

      Maybe for the court but not for the employer. The employer could say, you’re out tomorrow for no reason and be ok.

  10. BCW*

    Also I’d point out that they don’t know that Joe isn’t doing rehab or anger management classes . They seem to be assuming there were no repercussions. I’d argue that if Joe is going to anger management or something as a condition of employment, its not the bosses story to tell. I know people may think that just because it was a situation that everyone knows about that every deserves to know all follow up, but to me, thats not the case.

    1. Arbynka*

      I agree to some point but I think there are exceptions. If the situation in question may make co-workers feel unsafe, than I say follow up. If I witnessed one of my mates losing control in such manner, I would want to know what’s up. As iseeshiny said above, keeping quiet only allows any misconception to continue and it affects everyone’s ability to trust their co-worker. And honestly, “we can’t fire him” and he is a good guy” won’t cut it.

      1. BCW*

        Sure, maybe more than “Joe is a good guy and just got drunk” is acceptable, but I don’t think you need to go into all of the personal details of what he is doing now.

        1. Arbynka*

          I wouldn’t need his therapy session schedule, if that’s what you mean :) Attempt at humor. But seriously, I agree. I think there should be some explanation but no, I don’t think Joe’s privacy would have to be exposed. Sometimes it is not easy to deal with certain situations but good manager will find that balance.

        2. TL*

          “We realize that it was a serious and uncomfortable position and that many of you may feel unsafe. Joe is taking steps that have been discussed with HR/hire ups/whatever, including anger management, to ensure that such a situation will not happen again. We will be monitoring the situation closely; please let us know if you have concerns.”

          Very easy to say.

      2. Laura*

        Agreed, it’s how they DID address it that worries me, rather than how they DIDN’T. For example, you could honor pretty much every concern including privacy concerns in this thread, but still address the OP and their coworker’s concerns much better by saying something like, “I promise you we take incidents like that very seriously and have been working with Joe; however, we do not wish to violate his privacy by revealing the details. If our partner organizations have concerns, please refer them to (one or more specific people/roles), who can work with them to figure out a solution with which all parties can be comfortable.”

        1. some1*

          This. The managers alleviating concerns and the managers respecting Joe’s privacy don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

        2. ChristineSW*

          I’ve been trying to come up with my own thoughts about this, but you just stated pretty much how I feel better than I could’ve, so I’m just going to say “ditto” to your comment.

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yes, this is the important point. Perhaps he should be fired, perhaps not, but management needs to do a better job communicating!

        4. Mints*

          I wouldn’t want to work with/for people who take domestic violence lightly, and even if management decided to keep Joe for whatever reason, however valid, this would be the thing to tell everyone.
          That being said, they DIDN’T react like this, and it’d make me question management’s judgment in general and whether they’re good employers, especially considering that it’s already had concrete negative results.

  11. Mary*

    Personally, I think Joe should be fired. This is based on hitting his girlfriend (or anyone else for that matter on a business trip). Unless it has been determined that she started hitting him, there is no excuse for this type of behavior.

    Aside from all of this. The crux of the matter should be: Does this have a negative effect on the business? If so, he should be terminated immediately. The OP stated: “Some partner organizations are even deciding to not refer clients to us because of it.”

    Depending how close I was to certain people in the ‘partner organizations’, I would ask one of them to write or call someone in charge and state their concerns and why they won’t be referring clients to them. If that doesn’t do the trick, then whomever is in charge here is completely incompetent.

  12. Fiona*

    I’m torn on whether Joe should have been immediately fired after the incident – nothing to do with being arrested and everything to do with creating a disturbance on a company trip and costing the company a significant amount of money. At the very least, I would consider this two strikes with no expiration, and Joe would be on a very short leash. Unless, as has been mentioned above, there are additional circumstances that the management is aware of that the rest of the staff is not – however in that instance, that is the message management should be putting out, not “Joe’s a good guy who had too much to drink.”

    Between the laissez-faire attitude and the fact that management apparently didn’t *immediately* jump into damage control mode with Joe’s clients (again, with a better answer than the “too much to drink” line), I have a feeling nothing the OP is going to say will make a difference.

  13. Anon for this*

    Having worked with someone who had/has (it’s complicated) an abusive spouse, I know there can be safety issues for coworkers. When someone actually breaks social strictures to the point of arrest in a public setting, there are often plenty of unwitnessed incidents leading up to this. When actions start escalating, violence becomes just part of a continuum for ‘dealing with’ relationship issues. Coworkers can become caught in the crossfire. Literally.

    In the case at my workplace, admin decided to have a threat assessment meeting, and decided to take actions to keep this person from intruding on the workplace. I also had access to privileged information (i.e. the person’s criminal history) and knew that while the single incident was easy to downplay, and the coworker/spouse certainly did try to downplay the risk, this guy was wacked out on meth and heroin and had a gun. And about 1/2″ stack of criminal history. So no matter how isolated this incident looked or was portrayed, it seriously wasn’t.

    I realized the context is different in this situation. If the male is indeed guilty/abusive, he would probably take trouble to the gf’s workplace, instead of the other way around. But people who are ok with using violence and threats of violence aren’t in a rational space. Be aware and be careful.

  14. Maggie*

    Many years ago I worked with a guy who got arrested one weekend. Apparently he asked a lady-of-the-evening out on a “date” and she turned out to be an undercover police officer. Oops! He did get fired, I’m not sure what the official reason was though.

      1. TL*

        Unless he was working with an organization where a large part of his job was ending sex trafficking or improving sex worker’s lives or eliminating the sex industry….


        1. BJ McKay*

          That happened to a former colleague of mine. A vice-principal at a middle school. Everything’s forgiveable it seems, unless you are in education…

  15. Anonymous for this*

    A former coworker here was not only arrested for and charged with, but convicted of, sexual abuse of a child. He not only kept his job, but continued to be tagged to give tours of the plant to grade school groups. When evicted from his apartment becuse it was too near a school after his conviction, he lived on plant grounds in his camper for ~6 months while finding a place to live.

    The reason the plant manager gave for him keeping his job was that he, “Had found Jesus and joined the manager’s church.” He continued to work here and give tours until he fell off a mountain and died (literally).

    1. Ruffingit*

      That is totally ridiculous, although I know of a similar story. Someone I knew (Jane) was a 15-year-old member of a church youth group. The group leader (Tim) was in his 30s and married. He started a sexual relationship with Jane. Jane eventually put an end to it. Tim left the church for awhile, no one knew about it. When Jane heard Tim was coming back to the church to work with the youth group again, she told the pastors what had happened. They said that Tim was repentant and they had “worked” with him on his issues so it was all OK.

      GAH. Just makes you want to scream.

    2. Sophia*

      What?! That’s crazy. I get people ‘serving their time’ and getting rehabilitated. But I also think there’s a responsibility to protect the customers and consumers – particularly when it relates to children.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      In many places, it is AGAINST THE LAW for convicted sex offenders (convicted of offenses against kids, with structured parole) to be around kids. If they break those conditions of their parole, back to jail they go. How the bloody hell did the plant manager not get in major trouble for letting him still do tour groups?

    4. Adam V*

      What the hell? Finding Jesus is fine, but that doesn’t mean that the law no longer applies.

      And no one called the police and said “there’s a man at the plant who’s in charge of giving tours to children – and he’s not supposed to be around children since he was convicted of sexual assault of a child”?

  16. MaryMary*

    Domestic violence is heinous, but I think the firing offense is that Joe caused a disturbance while representing the organization that cost the organization a significant amount of money and damaged client relationships. I would say the same thing if Joe was intoxicated and insisted on singing opera to the point that the organization needed to pay for the hotel rooms of everyone on that floor of the hotel.

    1. en pointe*

      This exactly.

      As much as we all abhor domestic violence, I think the primary reason that he should be fired is the clear and demonstrable detriment to the company that he caused when he brought his shit to work with him.

    2. Sarahnova*

      HA! Very true. I think the domestic violence aspect is somewhat clouding the issue, not to mention bringing back our old friend, denial of crimes with a sexual element.

      You’ve gotta admit that the opera scenario is a lot funnier though. I’m just picturing Joe clutching one hand to his chest dramatically as he belts out something from Carmen. “TOUT D’UN COUP, ON FAIT SILENCE!”

      …yeah, that’s a lot more fun to think about than Joe hitting his girlfriend.

  17. HR “Gumption”*

    Simple fact is the company could legally fire him, or not. They have chosen not to at this time. It sounds as if co-worker concerns have been voiced and I’m sure the company is aware (or will be) if they have lost business because of the incident.

    OP needs to accept it and if not, move ahead.

    On a final note, as an HR Manager I would strongly recommend termination.

  18. Friend*

    I had a friend who was fired for being the victim of domestic violence. She had a steady job she was great at and had been there for years. She left an abusive boyfriend and he went to her work (retail) after-hours, but while employees were still there, and threw a rock through the window. She was fired on the spot.

    1. Elysian*

      Thank you for sharing this story – I was ready to note that the company should fire Joe for the commotion he caused, if not for the allegations of abuse. But you’re right that this could have gone the other way – What if Joe’s GF (in the original story) was the employee, and she brought Joe with her and he was arrested for abusing her? I feel like I would be much slower to fire her than I am to fire Joe. There’s still a commotion and she would be the “cause” of the commotion (for bringing the wrong guy) – but because she’s the alleged victim I think it would change my perception.

      Maybe we’re being too hard on Joe. I don’t know exactly what to think about this, I guess.

      1. BCW*

        I thought of posting something along those lines, but with my reputations, it would have been met with scorn.

      2. fposte*

        I couldn’t imagine considering Joe the cause if he were the victim, was filing charges, and his partner had been arrested; same in this case if you want to make Joe Jo.

        However, if either Joe or Jo had brought their partner along without authorization on the office’s dime, that would likely be a conversation regardless of who accused whom–that’s the employee’s wrongdoing.

      3. Cat*

        But if it was a female employee and she was arrested for domestic abuse after a fight with her male boyfriend, I think you would be getting the same set of answers. Likewise, if Joe’s girlfriend had been arrested, not Joe, the answers you’d be getting would be different.

        Look, nobody is saying the law is perfect. It’s not. Sometimes the cops get it wrong. But in this case, it sounds like the evidence has really piled up against Joe. It may or may not be enough evidence to convict him in court, but employers aren’t bound by the reasonable doubt standard in firing decisions.

        1. BCW*

          The reality is though that most of the time if the police are called, the guy is arrested and removed from the situation, and the facts are sorted out later.

          1. Zillah*

            But several of his coworkers, higher ups in the organization, and clients witnessed the incident. Maybe it was unclear or they misunderstood, but I can definitely imagine situations in which it would be very clear. They didn’t just walk by and see him him getting led out of the house – they either saw or overheard it.

            From the OP: The incident was so loud and disturbing that the hotel actually comped everyone on the floor’s night’s stay at our organization’s expense.

            That implies to me that even if they didn’t see the incident, they definitely heard a lot more than just some muffled noises or an indistinct raised voice.

        2. Elysian*

          I wasn’t trying to draw a male/female distinction so much as a victim/accused distinction. A lot of things we’ve said would be justification for firing Joe when he is the employee could be turned around just as easily to fire the alleged victim if she had been the employee, and I’m uncomfortable with that. If Joe is guilty I’m not going to excuse what he did – not at all. But if we’re going to fire someone for causing a commotion on a business trip that resulted in an arrest, I think that logic would justify firing the alleged victim as well as it would justify firing the alleged perpetrator.

          I still think that Joe should be fired for the mess he’s made, especially considering the nature of his position involves dealing with domestic violence victims. I just can’t get to a more articulate justification about why “causing a commotion” is ok for firing him but not ok for firing a hypothetical victim who may have caused the commotion by bringing him. As Friend mentioned above, people are indeed fired for being someone else’s target, and it can have an impact on the company.

          1. fposte*

            “if we’re going to fire someone for causing a commotion on a business trip that resulted in an arrest, I think that logic would justify firing the alleged victim as well as it would justify firing the alleged perpetrator.”

            I just don’t see this as applying to the victim of an assault in any way, whether they knew their attacker or not, and I don’t see people using it in a way that would require it to be so. People aren’t using “causing a commotion” to mean “weren’t silent the entire time”; they’re not suggesting that people should be fired for screaming “Fire” if their AC explodes or “Help!” if their bathroom door lock doesn’t let them out. They’re meaning “demonstrated problematic and disturbing behavior that would be unacceptable even if it weren’t illegal.”

            1. BCW*

              But it is because so many people are saying he should be fired, if not for the assault, since we don’t factually know who the aggressor was, than at least the commotion caused by it. So yes, by that logic if a woman brought her boyfriend along and this same thing happened, then she would be arrested too because of the commotion.

              1. fposte*

                I’m looking at the comments and I’m not really seeing anybody say something I read like that. I’m seeing people say that you can be fired for disrupting a business trip whether it’s a crime or not. I don’t think they’re saying Joe should be fired even if he’s a victim.

                1. KellyK*

                  My comments might’ve implied that, actually. I can see firing someone for knowingly bringing someone who’s violent and unstable onto a company trip and potentially putting their coworkers in danger (which is very different from the situation Friend describes above). I mean, if you bring guests to your workplace or on a business trip, you’re responsible for their behavior.

                  But then again, that seems pretty cruel and victim-blaming, and I wouldn’t want someone to lose their job for having failed to predict when their abusive partner would snap. Or, for that matter, for not having been clairvoyant enough to know that their partner was *about* to become abusive—we also don’t know that this is a repeat occurrence.

                  In this case, though, it doesn’t sound like the company thinks he’s the victim. It sounds like they think he was at fault, but he was drunk so that makes it okay.

                2. fposte*

                  I do think that our responses have been colored by that rather horrible comment, which to my ears sounds exactly as you say–that there’s no doubt that he committed assault but that they’re not holding it against him.

              2. fposte*

                Okay, I’ve just found some comments who say that if the employee chose to bring his SO on the business trip and was then assaulted by his SO, the employee should be considered responsible anyway, which may be what you’re looking at (I was looking for the word “commotion” and it wasn’t in those comments).

                And I would disagree with that sentiment in very strong terms–that really becomes victim-blaming to me. I doubt the partners serving domestic violence victims would be happier with that either.

              3. Zillah*

                I’m not sure that’s accurate, though. The OP indicated that there were several people who overheard the incident, which they describe as loud and disturbing. It sounds to me like they either overheard or saw enough to draw reasonable conclusions.

  19. Mena*

    This will be settled through a legal process. It isn’t the employer’s place to play judge and jury, and it isn’t your place either.

        1. fposte*

          And I would disagree. I don’t think that means simply people need to be fired immediately on the slightest suspicion, but I would say employers have the right and, in many cases, the obligation to keep people suspected of being harmful away from their other employees and their clientele.

        2. Windchime*

          I disagree also. People are fired every day for doing things that are neither illegal or criminal. A conviction is in no way required before firing someone for using terrible judgement at a work event.

        3. Zillah*

          Conviction can take awhile, and presumably, if Joe was convicted, Joe would probably serve jail time, so he wouldn’t keep his job, anyway.

    1. Anonymous*

      No, it isn’t to play judge and jury. But it is to decide if this guy should remain an employee.

      Being employed isn’t like being in the legal system. You can be fired for wearing white after labor day even if you didn’t.

  20. some1*

    Everyone has articulated my thoughts very well but I have to say this part in parentheses really jumped out at me:

    “On the final night, my coworker “Joe” physically assaulted his girlfriend (who he’d brought along for some reason)”

    The LW strongly implies that as a general rule, girl/boyfriends aren’t brought to these things. And if Joe brought her anyway, or the GF insisted on coming, it could be a sign that there are at the very least boundary issues in their relationship.

    Before anyone says anything, I know there could be any number of reasons why the GF came on the trip that have nothing to do with them refusing to be apart for a few days, so I’m not saying I’m right, just something I thought of.

    1. Criminal Justice Employee*

      Interesting… I didn’t read it that way until you brought it up.

      I read it as “Joe is always doing things I disapprove of” type of comment. That makes a big difference in the tone the letter takes in my head.

      I read the entire letter in a “I’m better than, and I know better than” type of rant. This may be why I keep looking at it in defense of the mgmt decision to keep on something the OP things is below them.

      Thanks for sharing that POV.

  21. BCW*

    Now that I took a step away and came back I realized, very few of the comments deal with the OP. Its like this. Management has decided what their stance is already. Period. If the OP was the manager in question, I think a lot of this would be a great conversation for that. But in this situation, I kind of think the OP is just trying to figure out how to get someone fired that THEY think should be fired. I can think my co-workers should be fired all I want for a variety of reasons, but if management has decided they are keeping them around, I have 2 choices: Deal with it or find a new job. The OP seems to not want to do either of these, when in reality, thats all they can (and should) do.

    1. Mints*

      That’s true. Whatever the ambiguities in the original situation, management hasn’t handled it well in the months since. They’re handling it poorly enough that there have been business consequences, and the other employees are still upset about it. That to me sounds like OP should start job hunting

    2. Cat*

      There are plenty of situations in which it makes sense to voice your disagreement to management about a decision they’ve made.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Definitely, but once you do that if you don’t agree with the action they take/don’t take, your choices are to either accept that or not. That is what BCW is getting at and he’s right. You can’t change what someone else decides to do or not do, you can only handle it by voting with your feet if you dislike it.

        1. Cat*

          Sure, but the OP was asking how to voice these concerns, not how to exercise dictatorial fiat over the company.

    3. Ruffingit*

      I agree completely. We can go back and forth all day about what SHOULD happen here or what we believe to be right/wrong, but reality is that OP has voiced these concerns to management and they’ve chosen to do nothing. OP can try once more using Alison’s advice, but basically she does need to accept that the powers that be may do nothing at all and if that is the case, then it’s on her to decide if she wants to stay at the job or look for something else.

  22. Another English Major*

    Would the employer hesitate to fire him if he assaulted a coworker or a hotel guest w/ no ties to him? I’m guessing probably not. This just seems like they don’t want to get”involved” in his domestic dispute because it’s his and his girlfriend’s business.

    He’s a good guy who got drunk us a weak rationalization. It wouldn’t fly for other out of control behavior that causes harm to the organization (losing clients), so why is that a good reason in this situation?

  23. ChristineSW*

    It’s posts like this that remind me that there is no black-and-white in life. I found myself nodding at quite a few of the comments. I’m not going to judge whether Joe is guilty or whether he should be fired. I *do* think the OP is justified in being concerned with the management’s response to the employees’ concerns. At the very least, I think they should tell the employees that any concerns expressed by the partner organizations may be directed to a specific person, preferably whoever is responsible for facilitating those partnerships.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Yeah, even those of us who disagree about Joe being fired have pretty much been in agreement that management handled this really badly. I also agree with you that concerns by partner organizations should be directed to one person.

  24. dejavu2*

    With all due respect, I believe Bryan Cavanaugh failed to consider what to me (as the former spouse of an alcoholic and also an attorney who practices employment law) is the obvious issue here.

    If Joe is an alcoholic, he is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) so long as he can perform his key duties. Now, as an employment lawyer, I would argue Joe’s alcoholism has adversely impacted his work conduct to the extent that his firing would be justifiable. However, there’s certainly an argument to be made on the other side. In any event, if Joe is willing to go on record as an alcoholic, he will have no problem finding an attorney to represent him in a lawsuit against the company if he is fired over what happened.

    So, while the employer’s explanation is still not entirely accurate, I’m reading the clues here to discern they believe Joe is likely to sue them. “Joe had a little too much to drink.” “It’s illegal to fire him.” Sounds like they’re thinking about the ADA.

    In case you’re curious, this is what the official government ADA website has to say on the matter:

    “Q: Are alcoholics covered by the ADA?

    “A. Yes. While a current illegal user of drugs is not protected by the ADA if an employer acts on the basis of such use, a person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection. An alcoholic is a person with a disability and is protected by the ADA if he or she is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job. An employer may be required to provide an accommodation to an alcoholic. However, an employer can discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct. An employer also may prohibit the use of alcohol in the workplace and can require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol.”

  25. Emma*

    If the girlfriend is so abusive that she will not let him go on business trips without bringing her, then this would still be a problem because he would not be able to independently perform a function (however major or minor) of his job. Seems to me that bringing your SO on a business trip isn’t common practice for this workplace.

    Now is it the responsibility of an employer to get an employee out of an abusive situation? I honestly don’t know. It depends? I’ve read about security measures taken by employers to keep employees safe from known domestic abusers (alerts, “don’t let this person on the premises” pictures, panic buttons, etc.) and it being moderately successful/appreciated by the employee. That could be one step in the right direction to helping an employee find the courage to leave an abusive situation.

    I will say that a few years ago on AAM, we had a tremendous and touching series of comments by several posters (Mary?) who were employees dealing with abuse. They described what it was like to be the recipient of well-meaning coworker and business interventions, how effective, etc. I will try and find that thread when I get home tonight.

  26. Bee*

    Could be things are being done behind the scene to address the behavior that frankly are no ones business whether they heard what happened or heard of what happened. I discreet organization would address the behavior behind the scenes and assist the employee in getting help. Arrested in not convicted. An alcohol problem needs treatment. Waiting for someone’s demise is unkind. I’m for second chances.

  27. vvondervvoman*

    The thing that tells me this is definitely domestic violence (as opposed to a drunken fight or something else) is that the girlfriend was there when that’s not the norm. Either he is the abuser and made her come with him so he could keep an eye on her or she is the abuser and insisted on accompanying him for similar reasons.

    It sounds like OP has determined that Joe is the abuser, but it’s not clear if that’s just from his arrest, or what she heard something specific from the room (him yelling at her using degrading terms and her crying out for example).

    So either way, management should be talking to him. First to determine if he’s a victim, and offer appropriate protections. But then most likely to fire him if he’s the one who truly caused the violence/noise. Although it would be totally fair to fire him despite knowing whether he was the abuser/ee, I would make a personal call and *not* fire the victim of domestic violence, making them even more dependent on the abuser. But that’s just me as a human being, although I think there are laws in most states that require employers protect victims in the workplace vs. firing them to make the workplace safe from the abuser.

  28. Ashley*

    Since you said that your boss is an executive director, that leads me to think that you work for a nonprofit – and that you therefore have a board. As a nonprofit executive, I think it would be perfectly appropriate for you to give a head’s up to a board member if you have a good relationship with one. However – be careful that you are not overreacting here and that this is truly a serious situation that is impacting the organization’s ability to serve clients. Also make sure that you are following your organization’s grievance procedure, which might require you to talk to the ED first. If you’re just angry that the guy wasn’t fired and looking for reasons to justify your anger, you could be putting yourself in a bad situation by going over your bosses head. That said, also remember that people do get over these things – people another agencies that refer to you will forget about this guy’s behavior and move onto some new drama. It feels big when you’re in the the middle of it, but hardly anyone will remember a few years down the road in most cases.

  29. SynapticFibrillation*

    He was arrested but was he charged?
    When you say witnessed do you mean heard or actually saw the assault?
    In many cases of domestic assault, the victim ends up being arrested (it happened to me).
    Im not saying that happened here, however there may be more to the story than you know and the boss might not be handling it well.

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