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  Oracle Tips by Burleson

Acts of Moral Turpitude

In addition to theft there are many other immoral acts that can be grounds for firing. One example might be to fire an individual for making false statements on their initial job application.

It is always a good idea to perform a background check, which is easily obtained via national services. Many companies require that a candidate not have any criminal convictions , except for minor traffic violations. In some cases, a routine background check can reveal arrests and acts of moral turpitude.

A computer programmer’s ongoing responsibilities often include designing and coding mission-critical applications with confidential data. Therefore, some companies require that all applicants for computer programmer or developer positions demonstrate the highest degree of personal and moral integrity.

In addition, background checks that reveal a history of drug use, dishonesty, lying, cheating, and theft may be grounds for immediate rejection. In some companies, all applicants are expected to sign a waiver to disclose personal information and are asked to submit to a polygraph exam.

The previously mentioned immoral acts as well as several others that occur in the work environment are all unacceptable behavior. These include:

  • Consensual and nonconsensual sexual acts.

  • Sexual intimidation of same-sex or opposite-sex individuals.

  • Extorting sexual or other favors.

  • Bartering benefits such as promotion or pay raise for sexual favors.

  • Threatening or carrying out negative consequences such as demotion, ridicule, or slander against an employee for spurning sexual advances.

An employee’s character may be a deciding factor in the outcome of a case.

Moral Turpitude Case 1

In McLean v Satellite Technology Services, Inc., a terminated female employee lost a suit of wrongful discharge after she refused her supervisor’s romantic advances. The court found that the female employee’s character was less than desirable, noting that “plaintiff possessed a lusty libido and was no paragon of virtue.”

During the investigation of her time of employment, it was found that she “displayed her body through semi-nude photographs or by lifting her skirt to show her supervisor an absence of undergarments.”

Moral Turpitude Case 2

In Cooper v. Mumford & C.J.M. Properties, Inc., a female employee claimed she was fired for spurning the sexual advances of the president of the company. The position of the company was that the two individuals were involved in a consensual dating and sexual relationship. They also claimed that the female employee was terminated for cause. The jury saw otherwise and awarded the employee $2,200 for medical expenses, $75,000 for emotional distress, and $23,000 in punitive damages.

Moral Turpitude Case 3

Some cases have gone in favor of the employer’s position regarding employment actions taken involving employees having homosexual relationships with other employees.

In Endsley v. Naes, a female road patrol officer was terminated based on her relationship with another female officer. The court sided with the Sheriff’s Department, explaining that the termination was justified to protect the department’s public image and its relationship with the community at large. 

Moral Turpitude Case 4

Profanity and obscenity can create a hostile environment in the workplace for employees. Various cases have supported this determination including one in which a workshop had obscene posters hanging in one particular individual’s workspace.  

This employee would regularly use inappropriate language in the workplace, which was usually sexually explicit. A female worker was offended by all of these actions and filed for sexual harassment. She won the case because it was determined that the employer had not corrected a hostile working environment and the obscene employee was discharged.

Moral Turpitude Case 5

Employees who are married must also not engage in immoral actions related to their work activities. In Staats v. Ohio National Life Insurance Co., an employee was rightfully terminated when he attended a company-related convention with a female who was not his wife.

Another awkward situation that has previously moved to the courts involved an employee who had a spouse working for a competitor company. It was appropriate to fire the employee for a conflict of interest since it would be very easy to pass proprietary information between the spouses. The discharged employee’s wrongful termination  lawsuit was based on the right of freedom of association under the public policy  provision, and was summarily rejected.

Moral Turpitude Case 6

Employees may be fired even for some immoral actions that do not occur during normal work-hours. A teacher for example has a responsibility to hold a higher standard of morals because of the nature of the job, even more so than other job functions.

In Pettit v. the Board of Education, a teacher was terminated for unprofessional conduct after being observed performing inappropriate acts at a strip club, on her own time. 

The previously outlined cases make it clear that acts of turpitude are not only relevant in employment situations, but they in many situations lead to the forthwith firing of the offending employee. However, the final outcome is dependent on the Federal or State statutes that apply.

The above book excerpt is from:

You're Fired! Firing Computer Professionals

The IT manager Guide for Terminating "With Cause"

ISBN 0-9744486-4-8

Robert Papaj


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