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Capitol Rioters are Being Fired by Their Employers

Brigid E. Heid
1/15/21

US Capitol Building   A long list of people have been fired or forced to resign from their jobs due to their involvement in the riot and storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.  News stories, photos and social media posts helped to quickly identify individuals who have suffered serious consequences at work.  A handful of examples include:

   The list of people who have already lost their jobs because of their involvement in the insurrection at the Capitol is long and growing as more evidence emerges, allowing their employers to identify them and their behavior.  As these recent examples show, off-duty conduct that is unrelated to an individual’s role at work can, and often does, lead to discipline and even termination.   

   Generally, an employee can be disciplined for behavior outside of work if that employee would have been disciplined for engaging in the same or similar behavior while at work. That is not to say that employers can act with impunity. Rather, employers must consider potential legal protections afforded the employee under a written contract, a collective bargaining agreement or the law. For example, public sector employees have First Amendment protections if they engage in speech as a private citizen, unrelated to their job duties.  

    Before taking disciplinary action for off-duty conduct, employers should consider: 

   Before disciplining an employee for off-duty behavior, employers should consider all facts and legal consequences. With current technology, camera phones and the ease with which one can post on social media, employers and employees alike should be mindful that what a person does on his or her own time , including visiting our nation’s capital, can have real life consequences at work.  

   Should you have any questions or concerns regarding employee conduct or discipline, please contact Brigid E. Heid.  Thanks to C. Awele Nawajei for her assistance in gathering information for this article.

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   Disclaimer: This alert has been prepared by Eastman & Smith Ltd. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney/client relationship.