FIREABLE OFFENSE: Definition and Guide to Fireable Offenses in the Workplace

Fireable Offense
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Inevitably, people will leave their jobs at some point in their careers. In 2021, over 47.2% of workers left their jobs voluntarily or were let go (via discharge or layoff). Those who were let go in the unfavorable category of “fireable offense” often had a tough discussion with their employer about why they were let go. Because it’s likely to be a conversation they’ll remember for the rest of their lives, HR professionals must carefully select their words. For the sake of both the employee and the company’s reputation, they must handle fireable offense negotiations with the utmost professionalism, empathy, and understanding. This article will go over the list of insubordination and a fireable offense that can lead to termination.

What is Fireable Offense?

Fireable offense – Termination for “just cause” (and without advance notice) is frequently referred to as the labor law equivalent of the fatal penalty.  Therefore, it is very difficult for employers to establish a fair cause in court.  Though challenging, proving a valid reason for dismissal is not impossible, especially when there is dishonesty or mistrust present.  Employers should always use caution when asserting justifications for termination, however, as doing so can be expensive.

 In a union setting, if an arbitrator reverses the decision to fire the employer, it could result in a ruling that returns the unfairness to the employee’s prior circumstances and pays a sizable back pay.  Non-union employees typically do not have the right to return to their positions, albeit unsubstantiated claims of just cause can be very expensive.  In circumstances when employers wrongfully claim a fair cause and refuse to provide noticeable benefits to the employee, the employee suffers economic hardship, Canadian courts frequently rule in bad faith and/or award significant additional punitive penalties.

What Are the Reasons for a Fireable Offense?

There are a number of reasons for dismissal, such as repeated infractions of business policy or other serious offenses. Employers with fewer than 50 workers have the right to terminate an employee’s employment at any time for any reason other than discrimination under the at-will employment doctrine. Here are some of the reasons to fire an employee.

#1. Ineffective Work Performance

The top fireable offense for an employee’s termination is one that often builds up over time. A major part of your employee management strategy should be a progressive disciplinary policy that outlines the steps to be taken before terminating an employee for poor performance on the job.

Furthermore, poor performance on the job can manifest in a variety of ways, such as missing deadlines frequently, not achieving set goals, and not completing a performance improvement plan (PIP). Nonetheless, there are times when an employee’s performance is so bad that they must be fired immediately to prevent further disruption. Poor performance on the job is grounds for dismissal because it indicates an incapacity to carry out the duties of the position.

#2. High Rates of Absenteeism

Employees that consistently miss work or call out sick have a domino effect on the rest of your staff, who must work overtime to make up for it. While occasional absences or tardiness can be addressed by verbal or written warnings, a pattern of excessive sick days can be considered a fireable offense.

Without proper authorization, some workers may skip out on work or call in sick when they really don’t feel like showing up. Although termination might not be necessary for a single occurrence, multiple documented crimes could lead to dismissal.

However, an employee who has been absent from work for three days in a row may be considered to have abandoned their position, depending on your company’s regulations. In addition, the company’s attendance policy may allow termination in this situation.

#3. Drug Use for Pleasure at Work

The use of recreational drugs should be rigorously restricted in the workplace because alertness and readiness to work are prerequisites for productivity.  The approximate amount of money wasted due to drug abuse is close to $ 120 billion.  As healthcare costs rise for businesses, so does employee turnover, which in turn reduces profits.  Potential adverse impacts, such as hostile and combative user conduct, increase the danger of losing clients and, by extension, revenue.

However, employers often misdiagnose drug misuse and send the incorrect workers home to recover.  If an employee’s use of recreational drugs impairs their ability to do their job, an employer that has a written policy characterizing drug usage as a possibly lethal felony is within their rights to terminate their employment.

#4. Breaking the Rules at Work

Your company has taken great care to establish policies that reflect the ideals of your business and guarantee high levels of efficiency and productivity from your staff. That includes things like being professional around the office and not slacking off on your duties. A company’s reputation and bottom line are both in danger when an employee acts dishonestly.

When employees break corporate rules, one of the largest dangers is to the organization’s reputation. If word gets out that workers are breaking corporate rules, you may lose the trust of potential consumers and clients. Because of this, you risk losing money and eventually going out of business. Furthermore, it can make the workplace unsafe. When workers consistently disobey policies, it can create an atmosphere where others fear for their safety on the job. As a result, productivity may drop and turnover rates may rise.

The government and several industries are imposing certain firm policies. For example, shoes with steel toes may be mandatory for workers in the construction business. If an employee is found to be in violation of this policy, disciplinary action may be taken, not because the employer is looking for a pretext to fire them, but because they are disregarding safety laws. A firm may have a reasonable fireable offense here to fire an employee who constantly violates company policy and for whom the company has sufficient documentation.

#5. Inappropriate Actions

Some workers constantly seem to be in a foul mood, no matter what you do. They’re always complaining about something, disrupting meetings, and trying to bring everyone else down with them. In tiny businesses, bad vibes may quickly overwhelm the entire organization.

Frequent and documented acts of disrespect in the workplace may necessitate firing, while a single event may not. There is a thin line between appropriate employee discipline (a warning) and dismissal (firing). No matter how insignificant an act of employee misconduct may seem, the employer must always keep a record of it. In the event that disciplinary action or dismissal becomes necessary, this record will serve as evidence.

#6. Fabricating Official Documents

Documents on behalf of the company may be written and signed by employees. However, if these records are forged, your company is put at risk. Document fraud can be avoided with the right set of policies and procedures.

The forgery of documents can occur in numerous ways. Documents may be manipulated by workers to alter dates, names, or quantities. They may also alter their time sheets or create fictitious financial reports to cover up their theft. This form of fraud is not easy to spot, but it can cause serious problems for a company, including legal issues and reputational harm.

It is imperative for companies to take precautions against document fraud. The significance of being truthful and having high ethical standards should be emphasized to employees, and there should be policies and procedures in place to check the veracity of paperwork. Also, these precautions will strengthen the company’s defenses against potential fraudulent attacks. In the worst-case scenario, people could get hurt or even die because of fraudulent paperwork. In addition, it is a fireable offense if an employee is caught doing this.

#7. Workplace Sexual Harassment

Instances of sexual harassment that fall under RAINN’s purview

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment includes “unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment.” Harassment of a sexual nature can take on many forms and targets, hence the phrase is often used to describe any unwanted attention or behavior. Harassment can come in many forms; for instance, generalizations about women could be considered offensive. Sexual harassment regulations don’t typically include mocking or off-the-cuff statements, but they can still be distressing and have a negative emotional effect.

There need to be swift and severe repercussions for an employee who engages in sexual harassment of other workers. Additional sexual harassment training or even termination may be in order as a consequence.

#8. Insubordination

When a worker refuses to follow their supervisor’s orders, they are being insubordinate. Even if that’s not cause for instant termination, it definitely warrants some sort of reprimand. Possible consequences include a formal reprimand, suspension, or even dismissal.

When an employee refuses to do a job task, performs a job task in a way that is not prescribed, or fails to follow corporate policy, this is insubordination, which can be verbal or physical. When an employee publicly questions or criticizes a company decision in front of other workers, this is also considered disruptive behavior.

Conversations can get emotional when a boss reprimands an employee for disobedience. However, managers with strong people skills should be able to steer the dialogue in a constructive direction, one that results in the employee’s betterment. In addition, it could lead to dismissal if it happens too often or if it causes major problems for the business.

Are Toxic Employees So Hard to Fire?

Firing toxic employees or coworkers is a topic that makes many individuals uneasy. Toxic employees are bad for business, therefore it’s unfortunate when one of them resigns or gets let go. On the one hand, we can’t ignore the reality that 55% of employees are less invested in their work because of the poor treatment they receive from some executives.

To be clear, as a business owner, I am all for companies that value their workers and seek to foster a positive and productive work environment by providing competitive wages and benefits. A worker must be let go if they are toxic, dislike their work, or have a poor attitude.

Firing an employee is one of the most difficult choices an employer can make, especially if he has worked for the company for a long time. Because of his popularity among clients, he constantly anticipates VIP treatment. If he doesn’t get it, he’ll get angry, refuse to take responsibility for his mistakes, and even lie to other workers to obtain what he wants.

What should you do if one of your employees has these traits or if working with them makes you feel like you’re being kept hostage? The best course of action is to terminate the toxic employee’s employment, but this must be done carefully to prevent irreparable damage to the company’s culture.

How to Fire a Toxic Employee

As said before, firing a toxic employee can be necessary, but the process is crucial. You don’t have to be absolutely precise; instead, you might be tactical. Here are some helpful hints for gracefully letting a toxic employee go:

#1. Be respectful, but frank

Even if things are at their worst with you, remember that your employee is still a person and make an effort to empathize with him. You should also avoid unnecessary elaboration and get right to the point.

The talk we have to have with you today, John, is going to be tough. However, after much thought, we have chosen to terminate your employment. Your last day on the job is today. I appreciate everything you’ve done here, and I hope to part ways amicably.

#2. Create a Policy for Employee Termination

Your termination policy should be included in the employee handbook that you give to all new hires as part of the onboarding process. Avoid ambiguity and misinterpretation by making it clear what kinds of behavior will result in termination of employment in this section. 

In an industrial setting, for instance, you might specify that any infraction of safety rules—such as not wearing PPE, driving recklessly, opting to smoke on the premises, or failing to use machinery guards—will result in a fireable offense.

Make sure everyone signs off after reading to show they’ve taken the time to read and comprehend the document. Keep in mind the importance of keeping the employee handbook up-to-date. Make sure your handbook explains expectations for the new work structure, such as if you’ve recently transitioned to a remote or hybrid model. If your policy is out of date or irrelevant, a former employee may sue you for wrongful termination. 

#3. Commence Recording Misconducts

In order to avoid discrimination or wrongful termination claims, termination discussions must be founded on real facts and evidence. As soon as you have reason to believe an employee is performing below par, you should begin keeping a log of pertinent instances. These documents will serve as evidence if the fired worker sues you over the decision of a fireable offense.

Include the following in your documentation: 

  • The date, time, and location of the incident
  • Information about any potential eyewitnesses to the crime (such as names and contact information.)
  • An eyewitness’s comprehensive account of the incident.
  • If the worker disagrees with what transpired, their version of events.
  • Details on any punishment you received as a result of the incident (including when it occurred).

Theft, fraud, and sexual harassment are all examples of behaviors that can lead to a fireable offense. You will need more lead time to begin documenting crimes in these situations because it is possible that the police will become involved. If the worker, however, contests the claims, you will need to prove your case for firing them.

#4. Select Appropriate Occasion and Location

Let’s be honest: nobody likes the idea of getting fired in front of their coworkers during the middle of the workday. Even though it’s never easy, it’s best to have termination discussions in person (or over Zoom for remotely located teams). They can keep workers from experiencing stress or uncomfortable. But when would be the most convenient moment to set things up? 

Your dismissed employee will have more privacy and fewer eyes on them if they clean off their desk at the end of the workday. If you go at this time, you won’t have to bother them at 9 in the morning to get there at 5 in the afternoon.

There are two outcomes that result from giving them too much time to mull things over 

  • On the day of the termination, your employee will spend fretting over the upcoming meeting.
  • If they are still able to access corporate assets, they will have an opportunity to begin their harm. 

And what’s the ideal last day of employment? Terminating someone’s employment on a Monday, according to this theory, affords them the remainder of the week to actively look for new work rather than letting their mind wander over the weekend. However, the remainder of your staff may be less affected if their last day of work is on a Friday.

Be strategic about the time and date you choose. The way you tell your former employee and the rest of the team will have a lasting impression on them.

#5. Take Care of Your Mental Wellness

One out of every five years of disability is due to mental health issues, according to the World Health Organization. It’s important to give the employer, the toxic employee, and the rest of the team time to talk after termination, as the procedure may have an effect on everyone involved.

#6. Maintain Effective Communication With Your Team

It’s important to let the other workers know about the termination, rather than leaving them to find out the news on their own. An easy-to-follow illustration John’s final day on the job was yesterday. We value his contributions to the company and wish him well in his future efforts. In the meanwhile, Jack and Claire will handle his former duties while we search for a replacement. Employees and management blame a lack of teamwork for 86% of workplace failures, according to the study.

What Is a Fireable Mistake?

Mistakes are inevitable, but some are more serious than others, especially in a formal context. Management faces a challenging decision when an employee’s error is on the verge of being a fireable offense.

If the slip-up was the result of genuine ignorance, for instance, leaders should prioritize the most pressing issue and address it immediately. 

Furthermore, many factors can lead to the dismissal of otherwise competent workers. Even when done in good faith, mistakes can have severe repercussions. The ePolicy Institute polled over 300 organizations and found that 31% have fired employees for misusing corporate resources. Here are some reasons why some employees are sacked mistakenly.

#1. Failing to Deliver on Promises

When you accept a position, you also made an implicit commitment. By accepting this position, you indicated that you were confident in your ability to carry out all essential duties. The consequences of taking a job for which you aren’t qualified are unpleasant.

Even if you’re competent for the job, you’ll appear bad if you lie to your supervisor and tell them you’re making fantastic progress when you’re not or if you promise to finish by a certain date when you know you won’t be able to. Don’t be surprised if you get fired for falling short of your promised accomplishments. This a fireable offense employees get overwhelmed about.

#2. Negativity

Your job is to make the lives of your superiors and coworkers simpler, not more difficult. Negative team members that frequently criticize others, gripe about their workload and whine that their tasks are outside of their remit make life difficult for everyone else.

Those who are a burden to their superiors are often the first to be let go. Someone who walks carefully around you to avoid dislodging the big chip on your shoulder won’t do so for long.

#3. Demand

Sending out office party invitations through email or posting an order form for your kid’s school fundraising could be seen as a breach of company rules. Don’t think you’re off the hook just because everyone else is doing it; managers often point to this kind of policy infringement as justification for disciplinary action when they’re dissatisfied with an employee’s output.

Insubordination Fireable Offense

Because of its ability to harm working relationships, undermines organizational authority, and dampen morale across the board, insubordination at work can be a major problem and can lead to a fireable offense. But is insubordination a fireable offense? Also, read INSUBORDINATION: Best Workplace Practices & All You Need

Workplace insubordination is a serious form of resistance to authority. In other words, it’s when an employee shows disrespect for their employer, their supervisors, or the company as a whole.

Insubordination frequently shows up when an employee does things like

  • Reacts poorly to criticism by making invalid justifications or unreasonable attempts to place blame on others.
  • Refuses to listen to an explanation or openly disobeys authority
  • Uses profane language or other disrespectful actions, such as eye-rolling and tutting, at their employer or superiors.
  • Refuses to start or finish a project
  • Publicly pokes fun at or contests corporate or managerial choices

Because of the presumed and essential nature of trust and confidence between an employer and an employee, insubordination is thankfully a rare kind of offense at work that is firable. In fact, even if it’s not written into the contract, all employment agreements have an implicit duty of trust and confidence between the parties.

If an act or series of actions of insubordination do occur on the job, however, it is critical that employers understand their responsibilities and the rights of their employees under the law in order to address the situation in a fair and legal manner.

Implementing a Disciplinary Measure Against Insubordination

In other words, the nature and severity of the insubordination at hand will largely determine whether the matter should be handled formally or informally.

Still, the following processes should be included at the very least in the event that formal disciplinary proceedings are judged required.

Without undue delay, the employer should conduct a thorough and fair investigation to gather as much information as possible regarding the circumstances surrounding the insubordination allegation(s), including any potential mitigating factors. This may involve conducting interviews with the worker and/or prospective witnesses.

After an inquiry uncovers that an employee has something to hide, a disciplinary hearing should be set immediately. This should be laid out in writing, with copies of any witness testimonies given to the employee in advance so they can prepare their defense. In addition, the worker should be made aware of their entitlement to bring a coworker, trade union representative, or trade union official along with them to the meeting, should they so request.

The employer should lay out the complaint’s foundation at the disciplinary meeting, citing any evidence gathered throughout the investigation, and giving the employee a chance to respond to the allegations, question witnesses, and present counterarguments. A friend or family member may argue for the worker at their hearing, but they cannot answer questions.


Firing someone is a last resort and nobody likes doing it, yet it happens. In the absence of unlawful discrimination, an employer has the right to terminate an employee’s employment at will. The workplace is a less productive place when dishonesty, negativity, and criminal behavior occur. If you want to keep your firm thriving, a firable offense shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Fireable Offense FAQs

Can You Be Fired Without Written Warning?

Yes, you can. A “summary dismissal” is a termination with no prior warning, and it can occur only in cases of “gross misconduct.” In extreme cases, such as when an employee has been fired for violent behavior, the company may do so without giving an explanation.

How Do You Outsmart a Toxic Employee?

Here are steps to outsmart a toxic employee.

  • Don’t take it personally when they act this way.
  • See if you can pin down what’s triggering the issue.
  • Take notes on any harmful actions.
  • Feedback should be given directly and honestly.
  • Give some thought to the results of their conduct.
  • Now is the time to give them homework they can handle on their own.
  • Make an effort to reach a middle ground

How Do You Fire an Emotionally Unstable Employee?

  • Make sure that your business complies with all ADA rules.
  • Verify if the employee meets the ADA’s definition of a handicapped person.
  • Find out if the worker is competent in their position.
  • Think about what else is necessary for the work.
  • Look for a way to make fair adjustments

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