If you get arrested, you may be very concerned about the impact on your career and your professional aspirations. You worry about the damage that this could do to your reputation. In certain careers, this can make it very hard to advance.
But it may be more than just a lack of advancement that concerns you. Perhaps you are worried that your company is simply going to fire you because of the arrest. Are they allowed to do this? Here are a few questions to ask.
Are you an at-will employee?
First of all, if you’re an at-will employee, then employers can end the relationship with you whenever they want. They can’t do this for legal reasons, like firing someone because of their race, but they also don’t necessarily need a reason. They could simply decide that seeing your name in the news paints their company in a bad light and they want to move on. They’re within their rights to do this.
Does your contract have a conduct policy?
If you have a contract – or even if you don’t – there may be a conduct policy that you agreed to when you took the job. In some cases, businesses will state outright that the employee will be terminated if they ever face arrest. If you’ve agreed to this type of conduct policy, they still may be able to terminate you. Even when at-will employees don’t need a reason to be fired, a conduct policy will still sometimes be used to explain what would result in such a termination.
Will companies wait?
In some cases, companies will wait for the investigation to play out. They may put you on leave or tell you to take time off while the police look into the situation. Human resources may also take a look at what happened.
In a case like this, the company may understand that an arrest itself doesn’t mean you’re guilty of any sort of criminal conduct. They are waiting to see if you are convicted before determining how it will impact your employment. Make sure you know about all of the criminal defense options you have.