If its employee is charged with a felony, does that giv an employer sufficient cause to fire him/her

Following being charged with securities fraud, Martin Shkreli was fired from his CEO position at KaleBios. His termination is of one a number recently where an employer fired an employee upon the latter being charged with an offence (i.e. before there’s been a conviction).

I assume that a company would consult with its legal counsel to confirm it’s within its rights before firing an individual simply because charges had been laid against him/her.

Is it generally the case, then, that merely being charged with a ‘serious crime’ (defined as, say, a felony) is sufficient grounds for termination?


All depends where you work. Union or non union. An at will employment state. Management non management. It would also depend on the job.

Charged? Probably not, unless the charges are related to the job itself. Convicted? Again, depends on the job.

In the vast majority of cases, an employee doesn’t need cause to fire someone. Even in cases in which cause is required, “This makes the company look bad” might be sufficient cause.

In Shkreli’s case, you would have to look to his contract.

But in fact the nature of the accusations against Shkreli are of the kind that call into question his fitness to be trusted as an officer of a company. I doubt the company would even need to wait for an indictment if they really wanted to get rid of him. But, again, his contract would be key.

For the majority of positions in the U.S., you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all at any time so the answer is yes most of the time. Keeping your job after charges have been made are separate from the potential legal penalties. It is common for executives to get fired or be forced to resign for legal wrongdoings in lieu of criminal charges as well. Companies don’t want the negative publicity so that just say the person left to pursue other interests or some other bullshit like that. CEO’s have a lot of power and often a lot of money but they usually have precious little job security and can be fired for any reason the board sees fit.

Ask Brendan Eich (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brendan_Eich), one of the greatest engineers of the twentieth century.

This needs to be a sticky somewhere, as far too many employees are unaware of the fact that they in all likelihood can be terminated at will, without the employer necessarily having a reason.

But I agree that with someone in the c-suite there’s going to be an employment contract at issue. As already mentioned though, being charged and arrested may be enough grounds for the board to conclude that a CEO can no longer perform his job duties.

It’s generally the case in the US that grounds for termination are not needed.Most employees in the US are at-will employees who can be fired for almost any reason or no reason at all. They can’t be fired for an illegal reason, or a reason that is contrary to public policy in some states, but I don’t think any state prohibits firing someone based on current charges.

In the UK, an employee charged with a relevant offence would probably be suspended. With or without pay would depend on the contract.

There have been doctors, accused of malpractice, suspended for years on full pay while the case is investigated.

As already noted, much depends on the nature of the employment relationship and the applicable laws of the jurisdiction, but in general companies have a great deal of leeway in deciding that employees are unfit, and especially so when it comes to matters of trust and/or public image, and Shkreli had become toxic in both those respects. And some industries by their nature take these matters much more seriously than others, like banking, insurance, medicine and pharma, and those where long-term working relationships with their clients and mutual trust are important.

Many large organizations have ethical codes of conduct that prohibit their employees from engaging in any public actions that would reflect badly on the organization, whether on the job or off. Under the circumstances if KaloBios (nitpick: not “KaleBios”) had any hope or wish to be regarded as a respectable company, they had no choice but to distance themselves as far as they possibly could from this jerk. He was convicted a long time ago in the court of public opinion, and when confronted with it, chose to double down on his jerkness.

Surely being fired for being charged would be attempting to pervert the course of justice as a person is legally presumed innocent until proven guilty?

An employer firing an employee has nothing to do with perverting the course of justice, which in any case is not an offense in the US. Obstruction of justice is a crime in some American jurisdictions, but again this has nothing to do with an employer terminating an employee.

An employer isn’t bound by the Constitution.

A person has the right to be presumed innocent by the government and must be proven guilty according to due process before the government can imprison or fine him.

A person has no such legal presumption of a right to keep his job.

As noted, it very much depends on the circumstances. If someone is charged with something out of the blue and claims the charge was entirely mistaken, a company may want to (voluntarily) hold off on dismissal until the justice system rules on it, out of a sense of fairness. But they have the right, subject to employment terms and laws, to do what they see fit, and if it’s a major crime getting a lot of publicity reflecting badly on the company, they may indeed have a fiduciary obligation to rid themselves of it.

In this case, though, you’ve got a CEO – the organizational leader – who’s tarnished the company by being a well-publicized confirmed asshole several times over, and the fact that he’s now been charged with an actual felony is just the last straw more than anything else. It’s not like the company will regain a shining reputation if he’s not convicted.

Any company with shareholders and board will have an employment contract for their CEO, and it’s a virtual guarantee that it will include a clause that will all the CEO to be removed without great cause requirements. He may still get paid based on the contract terms, but the important part is who is controlling the company and the board would act to remove him for the benefit of the stockholders. If it is a public company they would get sued if they didn’t.

When I was with a major retailer the policy was to fire anyone charged with a felony as soon as we heard about it. It didn’t matter if we believed they were guilty or innocent.

They could reapply after they were found not guilty.

Point made. Thanks!

Part of the reason I found the reason for his being fired worth asking about, is that things seem to be different here in Canada, i.e. it seems to me that it’s not nearly as much the case here that people can be fired at the will and whim of their employer. Anyone know how things work in Canada?

And this is why I get frustrated by the “You can get fired for being gay in these states” maps that populate my Facebook feed. You can also get fired for being ugly, or short, or blue-eyed or a host of things that are beyond your control.

The point of such a statement that you can’t be fired just for being black, or a Christian, or disabled, or an immigrant, or a woman, or middle-aged (all with certain exceptions), but that being gay is not similarly protected.