What is Employee Misconduct? Workplace Examples

Updated on December 22nd, 2021
What is Employee Misconduct? Workplace Examples

In the business world, the devil is employee misconduct and can rear its ugly head in any workplace, at any time. You never know until it happens.

Employee misconduct is a broad umbrella that covers a whole host of bad behavior on the part of an employee. There are examples of misconduct in every workplace, but what they look like can vary greatly. With so many cases of employee misconduct out there, blindly trusting your employees could lead you to havoc.

Employers need to stay alert of all types of employee misconduct to keep their organization on track and prevent further misconduct. If you are a business owner or an employer, you must know about the types of employee misconduct that can ruin your organization. This article will go through the different types of misconduct that an employee might be guilty of. So, stay with me to learn about it.

What is Employee Misconduct?

Employee misconduct is the type of behavior that is harmful to your organization. When an employee refuses to follow workplace policies or procedures, shows offensive behavior, breaks the law, purposefully damages company assets, or harms their place of employment. It ranges from the more benign acts like failing to show up on time to the most severe cases of outright fraud, lying about qualifications, or intentionally harming co-workers.

Employee misconduct is a serious issue that should be taken seriously. It can lead to many adverse effects on an organization, including decreased morale and productivity, higher turnover rates, increased liability exposure, lawsuits, fines, or other penalties for violating laws regulating employee conduct.

Types of Employee Misconduct

Employee misconduct is of two types. One is gross employee misconduct, and another is referred to as general employee misconduct.

Gross Misconduct

Gross misconduct is a term used in employment law. In gross misconduct, the misconduct is severe enough to affect the company's standing or production. The employees are summarily dismissed for such misconducts, even without any prior notice. The degree of seriousness in its definition varies from one state to another. Still, it is mainly meant to cover a case where the employee fails to perform their work obligations due to unethical, illegal, or inappropriate behavior.

General Misconduct

On the other hand, if an employee fails to perform their work obligations due to personal problems or negligence, it is general misconduct. It is also referred to as simple misconduct. The organization has a right to give warnings regarding this type of misconduct. After giving proper verbal warnings or written notices once or twice, authorities can take decisive action. Some examples include missing work frequently due to illness or injuries, taking excessive leave without permission, or being late to work.

What are the Different Examples of Employee Misconduct?

As mentioned above, there are many examples of employee misconduct. However, those that you might be most concerned with are the following:

Theft and Fraud

Theft and fraud are some of the worst types of gross misconduct that an employee can commit in any organization. It is illegal, immoral, and highly damaging to a company's reputation if it gets out. It can lead to loss of potential customers, legal and financial troubles.

There are several forms of fraud, including embezzlement, stealing a credit card, tax evasion, voter or insurance fraud. However, there are also some other forms of theft and fraud, such as stealing merchandise, using company resources for personal reasons, stealing from co-workers, and more.


Violence is a common type of employee misconduct that occurs in the workplace. The extent to which they happen varies greatly. Some companies have employees that don't have significant problems with violence, but others struggle with it all the time. It is one of the main reasons companies make clear policies on how employees should conduct themselves at work and that there is zero tolerance for this type of behavior. In cases of violence, immediate dismissal is often the result.

Violence is the threat of physical contact meant to harm another person. It can range from threats of violence or aggressive pushing and shoving to actual physical injury that occurred due to an employee becoming violent.

Some examples of workplace violence include bullying, stalking, assault with a deadly weapon, threatening employees, supervisors, or customers by use of hand or object potentially used as a weapon, sexual harassment, and more. It is generally prohibited to carry a weapon or dangerous item in any faculty that provides services to the public, such as hospitals, airports, parking garages, schools, and office buildings.


Employee harassment can involve different forms of verbal and non-verbal communication meant to annoy, demean, threaten or otherwise create a hostile environment within an organization. The definition of such conduct may vary by location, depending on the local laws. It might involve making threats, sending harassing messages or rude comments, purposely excluding someone from workplace conversations or activities, and more.

Sexual harassment is the most common form of harassment that employers have to deal with. It involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that an employee finds offensive or an act that creates a hostile or abusive work environment.

Use of Drugs and Alcohol

Employees may be required to perform their jobs with a certain level of skill and safety, which might require that they remain sober. When an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the job site, it can result in significant risks for accidents. This type of misconduct can also pose a substantial threat to the company's image if the media gets involved. The HR department must take disciplinary action or issue written warnings to an employee who uses drugs during working hours.

Violation of Saftey Protocol

Health and safety regulations are made to protect everyone and minimize the risk of accidents in the workplace. This type of misconduct is most commonly found in hazardous environments or construction sites, but it can occur virtually anywhere.

Employees may be expected to follow specific safety protocols depending on their roles and the type of work. Employees who violate such protocols can put other employees, clients, and other individuals at risk of harm or injury. Examples include violating federal or local health and safety regulations regarding machinery, watercraft, equipment usage, and more. An employer must handle misconduct related to safety protocol violations urgently, especially at a construction site.

Damage to Goods and Property

Misuse of the property refers to an employee's intentional or negligent damage, defacing, destruction, alteration, or misuse of any company's equipment, products, or other necessary assets to complete their duties. Many different examples of this type of misconduct include willfully breaking company property, tampering with equipment or machinery, damaging organization property by misusing it, intentionally misusing computer systems or files, etc.

Companies often spend a large amount of money to purchase tools or equipment for use in the workplace. Not only does employee misconduct of this type affect the company's bottom line, but it can also create a significant safety hazard. Employers need to carry out an employee misconduct investigation and handle such issues immediately.

Breach of Confidentiality

Confidentiality agreements are meant to protect information given to employees or other individuals based on trust. The types of information covered by an employment agreement can vary depending on the job role, industry, and organization involved.

When an employee's actions involve revealing sensitive information to an individual or organization without disclosing that they are legally obligated to keep it confidential, this is considered a breach of confidentiality.

It can be done by disclosing details about company trade secrets, financial matters, health information, customer lists or other types of confidential communication. Some examples also include disclosing personal information without consent, selling private business information to third parties for financial gain, and more. An organization must take legal action against such misconduct. A supervisor must take possible legal action if an employee is found guilty of breach of confidentiality in an investigation process.

Crafting False Credentials

An employee's level of education, experience, and skills can affect their ability to perform certain tasks and be viewed as competent in their role. The organization might require employees to maintain a certain level of these attributes throughout their employment to keep them competitive. If an employee falsifies certificates, resumes, or a document related to professional performance or credentials, this represents a form of misconduct.

An example of crafting false documents and credentials can include an employee exaggerating their qualifications on a document, tampering with human resources records to make themselves look better, or altering professional certificates. This type of misconduct can also occur when a candidate for employment lies about schooling or skills during the interview process to secure a job.

Creating False Documentations

Employee misconduct of this nature refers to the intentional or negligent creation or usage of false documents. It can include anything from report misconduct, signing false names in a document to reports or other documentation, submitting fake work records, and more. Documents intended to represent a company's interests must be accurate and trustworthy.

Inaccurate or false documentation can affect the company even if it doesn't reach outside organizations or individuals. For example, inaccurate paperwork within the organization might result in confusion about which records are accurate and true, creating a lack of transparency leading to mistrust among employees and the appearance that the company is not upholding its standards. The firm's authorities must take interim action by issuing written warnings to employees.

Violation of Company Policy

It's up to each company to come up with the policies they feel will work best for their business and employees. Some common company policy violations include coming in late or leaving early, not following dress code guidelines set by the employer, or attending outside meetings without prior approval from a supervisor. It also includes taking excessive breaks, eating or drinking at inappropriate times, falsifying time cards, using company resources for personal reasons, and more.

It is any violation of the employer's policies that occurs during the course of working within a particular company. Most employers take misconduct seriously, as it can affect the company's productivity and stability. If employees violate their own established standards or their employer, they could face termination and other disciplinary actions.

How to Hande Employee Misconduct?

Addressing employee misconduct is a delicate process, as it involves several factors, including the accused party's employment record and past behavior. When an employee commits an act of misconduct, the most important thing is for managers to respond responsibly. Depending on the type of misconduct, consequences can include verbal warning, final written warning, and dismissal.

Following are the steps and procedures managers and companies should take to address employee misconduct:

  • If employee misconduct occurs in your company, you need to take quick action. You need to determine if the misconduct is serious enough to warrant disciplinary procedures. If you don't act quickly, there could be negative consequences for you, your department, and the company as a whole.
  • Investigate the issue by collecting all relevant information. During an employee misconduct investigation, you should talk with any witnesses if available. Examine all evidence and review the company's policies to determine what action should be taken.
  • Write down all the details of the misconduct committed by the employee found via the investigation plan. It should include an account of what happened and who was involved.
  • Discuss the issue with the higher authority of the company or legal counsel. Present the evidence of the misconduct committed by the employee.
  • Analyze the severity of the employee misconduct. Consider its impact on the company and your department and what actions you should take against the accused individual.
  • According to the employee handbook, suggest possible options for disciplinary action against the employee if you find them to be at fault. Follow the company's established processes and procedures when deciding how to address the issue.