Many employees can be fired “at will”, with or without cause, simply because the boss doesn't like them or because there is “bad chemistry”. In states of free will, employers can fire anyone for any reason. But even in other states, gossip can be considered to “create a hostile work environment” and may lead to disciplinary action that eventually lead to dismissal. Workplace rumors are a constant topic.
When rumors and gossip spread about an employee, they can damage the victim's reputation and potentially result in an unfair loss of work. Lewd rumors and gossip in the workplace can spread quickly and have unforeseen consequences for both the victim and the employer. When employers take adverse employment action against employees based on gossip or rumors, they could be exposed to potential liability. People who have experienced adverse employment actions based on false rumors or gossip may want to talk to the lawyers at Swartz Swidler for advice on their options.
In their employee handbooks, many companies have formal policies that restrict gossip. Given the recent NLRB ruling, how can they ensure that these policies are not “too broad to be inapplicable?” Gossip takes sides, and your side isn't always the one they choose. One of the most destructive aspects of gossip is that the bearer of the news and the receiver of the news tend to change their feelings, beliefs, and loyalties based on the gossip they hear. No matter what the truth is, they tend to side with the juiciest gossip.
If you fired someone from accounting for embezzlement and the office gossip believes it was a dismissal, they will spread the rumor of the dismissal and, regardless of the facts, within hours the entire company will send their resumes. It won't matter if you announce that so and so was fired, not fired and that things are going well, a gossipy influencer can make everyone nervous and scared in a matter of hours or days. You can't rely on gossip to be faithful to your mission or message. I went into a lot of detail in a recent article about firing an employee with a bad attitude.
Let's see if employers can fire employees for gossiping, why gossip can be so harmful to the workplace, and the reasons employers may consider firing an employee for gossiping. Since gossip has had so many detrimental effects both on people and on the workplace in general, many employers have wondered if an employee can really be fired for gossiping. It can lead to immediate dismissal if the gossip is serious, and it can lead to disciplinary action that eventually leads to dismissal. This means that office gossip about alleged affairs could constitute unlawful sexual harassment.
For example, while the woman was excluded from meetings and was eventually fired, the male manager with whom she supposedly had an affair was not excluded or fired. After all, it's much easier to keep an otherwise good employee than to fire and hire and train a new one. The court found that the rumor was based on a double standard according to which men and women who are believed to have affairs in the office are treated differently from one another. The institute had fired Joslyn Henderson because she had discussed a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that she had filed for sexual harassment and retaliation by her manager.
It's clear that it's acceptable to fire an employee for gossiping if the employer is an “at-will” employer or if the employer is in an “at-will” state. And if an employee engages in gossip that creates a hostile work environment, the employer may choose to fire him to dissolve the hostile work environment situation. We explain the reasons why you can fire an employee for gossip, why gossip is so harmful to the workplace, and how to resolve a gossip problem among employees. This means that employers can fire employees at will for any reason or for no reason, and with or even without notice.