You almost surely have heard of the Ray Rice scandal. In a nutshell, for those who have not followed the story, Ray Rice was a player for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. Earlier this year, he was criminally charged for a domestic violence incident involving his then fiance (now wife) in an elevator. The NFL suspended him for two days. Now, months later, a copy of the surveillance video from the elevator was released. After the video became public, the Baltimore Ravens released Ray Rice and the NFL has suspended him indefinitely.
(Photo Credit: mikecogh/Flickr)
Of course, the major takeaway lesson for everyone from this mess is simple: do not hit people. The follow-up lesson is that if you do hit someone, particularly a romantic partner, there are consequences for that action. I prosecuted domestic violence cases at the King County Prosecutor’s Office and saw firsthand how tragic these cases are. Domestic violence tears families apart and destroys lives. And unfortunately, it can become a cycle that is extremely difficult for the abused party to escape from.
As for those who engage in the abuse, all too often they themselves have been the victims of abuse themselves, and they have their own set of struggles ahead in trying to develop the ability to have a healthy relationship.
While the least important thing about domestic violence is its impact on abusers’ careers, it’s still worth discussing. For one thing, some people might have been surprised to discover that employers can punish workers who assault their partners (or anyone), even if it’s outside the workplace.
There are three main lessons that all employees can take away from Ray Rice’s situation, particularly the fact that he received one punishment at work, and then ultimately when the full gravity of the assault became public knowledge, how his workplace consequences were even more severe.
1. You absolutely can get fired for assaulting someone outside the work environment.
While in Mr. Rice’s case, it was a domestic assault, a non-domestic assault can have the same result. Most people are at-will employees and can be fired for almost any reason (as long as its not an unlawful reason like because of their race). But even amongst people with contracts, those contracts usually allow an employee to be fired for immoral conduct, and hitting someone will almost always be considered immoral conduct.
2. You absolutely can get fired if you assault someone and you are not charged with a crime.
Some people think they cannot be fired if they are not criminally charged with an assault. That is not true. If your employer finds out about the assault, your employer can fire you, even without criminal charges. So if you get into a brawl and the police are not called, but someone posts photos to Facebook and your boss sees them, your boss can fire you.
3. You can even get fired if you did not prevent a domestic violence situation.
While it may not be as common, even failure to prevent domestic violence can result in being fired. Consider for a moment how poorly the NFL’s original response to the Ray Rice situation is reflecting on the NFL right now. It makes sense that some people are going to lose their jobs over how the situation has been bungled. Similarly, a failure on your part to prevent domestic violence can reflect poorly on your company, and can result in your termination.
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