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Can Violating a Work Rule Make You a Criminal?
By Donna A. Walsh and Patrick A. Casey
Every workplace has its own rules regulating employee behavior. Some have formal progressive discipline policies calling for increasingly serious punishment for repeated instances of unacceptable behavior. While deviations from employment policies routinely result in discipline or even discharge, it is universally understood that violating a work rule does not make an employee a criminal. Prosecutors, however, continue to rely on alleged violations of workplace rules as the premise for bringing criminal charges against employees in both the public and private sectors.1 The theory is that workplace rules establish expected standards of conduct and, when those standards are breached, the employer is defrauded or suffers a theft.
But work rules are not crimes. And Skilling firmly closed the door on the attempt to criminalize employee breaches of the duty of faithful and loyal service.2 Moreover, because there is no warning that departures from employment policies may subject e
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