Theft. This is, by far, the most lethal offense that an employee can commit. When evaluating such an offense, little consideration is given to leniency.

Theft is the unauthorized taking of property from the employer, fellow workers or customers regardless of the value of the property in question. Such policies are generally strictly enforced because employers are justifiably cautious about setting precedents that might encourage employees to help themselves to others’ property. The case law supports this strict application of discipline. For example, arbitrators have upheld the discharge of employees for taking damaged food products or industrial scrap. Government agencies frequently uphold discipline against employees for taking office supplies of minimal intrinsic value such as pens, pads of paper or even paper clips.

In cases involving alleged theft, typically the only issue is whether or not the theft can be proved. If the proof is solid, the discipline is rarely challenged.

Assault. Next to theft, physically assaulting anyone at work is virtually an automatic discharge offense. Claims of provocation or minor contact (such as pushing) are not regarded as justification. Many employers automatically refer such incidents to law enforcement authorities.

The rule against assault becomes tricky when two workers are involved in a fight. If both employees voluntarily participated in the encounter, both combatants should be disciplined. If one worker is the victim of a unilateral assault and is merely defending himself, a full investigation should be conducted. If the victim engaged in nothing more than self-defense and broke off the conflict at the first opportunity, discipline might not be appropriate.

Because safety in the workplace is of such tantamount importance, employers are justified in implementing ancillary rules that contribute to the protection of their employees. An example of such a rule would be a prohibition against bringing firearms or other weapons to work.

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Common Workplace Violations
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