Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett spoke with SHRM Online for an article addressing considerations for employers when developing policies related to the damage or destruction of company property caused by an employee.

One area a policy should address is disciplinary actions related to damages. “The policy should retain flexibility to match the level of discipline with the level of seriousness,” such as negligence, recklessness or willfulness, Tim said. “Often, the policy will contemplate that the company will do some form of cause analysis upon learning of an incident that resulted in damage or destruction of company property.”

However, willful damage can be more difficult to prove. “I am aware of a situation in which an employee was terminated for sabotaging a production line with a wrench to avoid having to work overtime,” Tim said. “Surveillance cameras captured the activity and the employee was prosecuted criminally for such behavior and was forced to pay the damage caused as part of the criminal punishment.” While this story ended in remedy for the employer, Tim said that reports to the police for willful destruction of property are rare because willfulness is difficult to prove.

The full article, “What to Include in Policies Regarding Damage to Equipment,” was published by SHRM Online on October 14 and is available on the organization’s website.