Intentionally defacing and damaging property is not just a juvenile menace. Adults too can cause a lot of destruction through vandalism. In the workplace, vandalism could be a sign of deeper underlying issues such as low employee morale, out of control office politics or an attempt to get revenge. Mitigating vandalism at work calls for legal action against perpetrators and implementing deterrent measures. However, it is important to consider the legal implications of disciplining vandalistic employees.
Payroll deduction for damages
It is possible to formulate and enforce policies that require employees to reimburse the company if they willfully damage workplace property. However, federal and state laws restrict employers from making payroll deductions unless the employee willfully damages the property, is negligent or engages in dishonest acts. According to federal law, employers can only make payroll deductions if the employee had previously agreed, to such a policy. Additionally, employers should not resort to withholding an employee’s wages if the deduction will bring the payments to below minimum wage.
Taking legal action
State laws prohibit the willful damage of another person’s property. Vandalism can be categorized as a felony or misdemeanor. Employers can initiate a civil lawsuit to seek for damages against the perpetrator. Such a punitive action does more than just compensate the employer for the losses incurred—it can serve to deter vandalism in the future.
In most states, employment is on an at will basis. This means that employers can choose to terminate an employee if they engage in acts of vandalism at work. Termination is lawful as long as there is no bargaining agreement or an employment contract signed by the employer and employee. It is important to incorporate a clause in the employment handbook allowing you to take disciplinary action, including termination.
Tracking use of office facilities
Regulating the use of facilities can help to easily identify vandals. For example, using key cards to access the bathrooms restricts admission to employees only and makes it easy to keep track of who used the facilities and at what time. Installing cameras especially in secluded areas such as the washrooms or storage room can deter employees from willfully defacing property. It is vital to alert your employees about the cameras. Employers can be charged with a misdemeanor crime if they install cameras without consent from employees.
Mitigating future vandalism
Employers must treat vandalism as an emergency. Repair damages as soon as they happen; waiting too long to restore the damaged equipment or facilities could send a message that defacement is tolerated in your company. If the damage is overlooked, there are chances that vandals could engage in more destruction in the future. Managers should also find out why employees engage in vandalism to address the underlying issues and to prevent future destruction of property.
Employees who perpetrate vandalism have the intention of disrupting business and creating anxiety within the workplace. But, it is not enough to punish perpetrators of workplace vandalism; employers must actively engage with employees to address grievances immediately before employees choose to resort to defacement to express their dissatisfaction.