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Regular poster, posting under an anonymous account due to a sensitive HR issue.

I own a very small company with under 10 employees.   In the past, one of my employees, a relative, went through a nasty divorce.   The employee's wife accused him of sexually abusing their young old son.  While I don't want to get into the details, he was convicted, spent several years in jail, and is on the sexual registry list.   He is also not very bright and very socially awkward.  

I have another part time employee (1-day a week)  that I allow to bring in her daughter when she's not in school.  The daughter just takes a conference room.

I just found out that the the male employee gave the daughter a hug last week.   Not in a sexual way, another employee was there.  But enough that the observer and daughter felt uncomfortable.   I found out about this today.  

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I'm obviously livid -  I know the male employee didn't mean anything by it, but stupid doesn't begin to describe what he did.  And the risk it brings to me.

I just gave him feedback, and made it clear that he was not to be in the building when the part-time employee or daughter was here.  I sent him home, and said I would re-evaluate his job status.

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I'm off to listen to the harassment podcast.   But, any feedback would be appreciated.

Questions I have to answer today:

1) Do I fire the employee for this, or just ensure that he's not in the same building with the part-time employee and/or daughter?

2)  Do I inform the part-time employee of the history of the male employee?   Should I have before she started?

maura's picture

I know nothing of the legality of your two questions, but as a parent, here's what you could have done differently.  I'll assume that you did not have the legal right to inform the mom of his history.  But you, as the boss, had the legal right, probably the responsibility, to say no to her kid being unsupervised in a conference room on a regular basis, given what you knew about your relative/employee's record. 

And, regardless of whether he is fired or not, or how the HR piece gets resolved, I am VERY relieved that the extent of it was "just" an uncomfortable hug.

timrutter's picture

My best advice is to get advice. Good, professional and experienced legal counsel.

If you do not have an attorney already, get a recommendation and get one. They can advise you as to what action you must take and what your risks are. In terms of things like Meagans Law (I'm assuming you are in the USA) the information about people on the sexual register is already public domain information.

That's the legal side.

As for behavioural management, you've done the right thing by taking the instant emotion out of the situation and making the message of how serious this is plain and simple by immediate feedback, showing the employee the cliff edge and sending him home. You can now consider your next actions.

issue123's picture

While her mom was right outside the conference room, it was ultimately my responsibility.  The daughter was only in the building twice, but it was two too many. 

I spoke with the mother this afternoon.  She was very embarrassed and didn't want this to be a big deal.  Nonetheless, she confirmed that the “hug” happened and the daughter felt uncomfortable.  That is enough.

I’m planning to fire the male employee tomorrow morning.   I spoke with a HR attorney; they confirmed that while it wasn’t necessary, it was the best and safest approach.  For me and for him.  If anyone were to file a complaint, he would quickly go to jail.

The sad part is, he didn’t intend any harm.  But as I’ll cover tomorrow, intents don’t matter.  Only behaviors, actions, and results.  

PeteDenton's picture

I think there's a learning point for all of us in here too.

In an ideal world we might say that children shouldn't be in the workplace, except as part of a formal programme (e.g. work experience).

In another ideal world we might say that children should be encouraged to go to their parents' workplaces from time to time - for a whole variety of reasons to do with their inter-personal relationships and getting an idea of how the adult world works.

In a third ideal world, allowing children into the workplace occasionally might be a good way to retain a valued employee who is experiencing child care difficulties.

In every case, my learning from this would be to undertake a risk assessment before saying 'yes'. This could include scenarios like the above (known history of a work mate) and also issues like insurance - would the child be insured if they had an accident on the parts of the premises which they could access?

I once heard someone say something like 'It's ok to make mistakes. They're an opportunity for you (and others) to learn. You should make sure every mistake is a new one though.'

issue123's picture

 Thanks All!

The male employee was fired on Friday.  While the termination process is never easy, this decision was.  To paraphrase an old saying:  "A manager never fires an employee.  The employee fires themselves.  The manager just passes along the message"  

Pete, you are absolutely right.  I was just trying to help an employee with daycare issues, but didn't think through the risks.  And it almost cost everyone involved dearly.  If someone can learn from this, it may bring some good to a very difficult situation.

 

timrutter's picture

I would like to add that I feel you came to the right result using the right method. It will not feel like it, but difficult job, well handled.

Tim