Advice » In the Workplace» Workplace Issues » Five Lifestyle Activities That ...
Five Lifestyle Activities That Can Get You Fired

Five Lifestyle Activities That Can Get You Fired

By Larry Buhl, Monster Contributing Writer

Can having a bacon double cheeseburger and a cigarette put your job at risk? Maybe. It may sound surprising, but many off-the-job actions and lifestyles could put your job in jeopardy.

Fair Game?

Employment experts point out five key areas that a company may scrutinize:

  • Smoking, Drinking and Overeating: Due to the cost of health insurance, more and more employers view "unhealthy" habits as a threat to their bottom line.
  • Risky Behavior: Likewise, a company might see your bungee-jumping hobby as a liability.
  • Speech: Will your employer consider your blogging to be destructive griping?
  • Romantic Relationships: Dating someone at a competing company has landed employees in hot water. And some employers might take issue with unmarried coupling or even same-sex relationships. (Federal law doesn't protect employees from discrimination based on real or perceived sexual orientation.)
  • Political Activity: Volunteering for a Democratic candidate could be trouble if you have a Republican boss, and vice versa.

Job- or industry-specific behaviors can lead to termination as well. A Ford worker who drives a Toyota is probably safe -- unless he is president of Ford. But a bank employee who bounces a personal check could get the boot.

Just Cause or Just Because

If these reasons for termination seem unfair, they must be illegal, right? Not necessarily. Just because most employers don't let valued employees loose for off-the-job activities and lifestyles doesn't mean they can't.

"Most workers in the private sector don't understand that, unless they live in Montana and Arizona, their job is at-will," says Paul Secunda, an assistant professor of law at the University of Mississippi. "At-will means an employee can be fired for good cause…or no cause at all."

Federal job protections include gender, race, religion, national origin and disability. "Some state laws forbid discrimination on other bases, including sexual orientation or status as a smoker," said Rick Bales, a professor at Northern Kentucky University's Chase College of Law. Smokers in the tobacco-growing state of Kentucky, for example, are safe from termination, he said.

Don't Be Fooled

Although union members and public-sector (government) workers generally have more protections, employees in the private sector -- the bulk of the US workforce -- can be fired at any time, and usually without recourse.

"Unless you were fired because you are a member of a protected class under federal law, or under another state statute, it's likely not illegal," said Kimberly Malerba, an associate who litigates employment cases with Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, a Uniondale, New York, law firm.

The good news is that most companies don't go out of their way to snoop into employees' lives, Malerba says. "A company is most concerned with [off-the-job] behaviors that directly conflict with business interests," she says.

Five Tips to Consider

Legal experts have advice for protecting your job from unexpected dangers:

  • Understand the concept of at-will employment. Don't assume that termination must be illegal just because you think it was unfair.
  • Be fully aware of your company's policies and terms of employment. Read the employee handbook, and ask HR if you have any questions.
  • Be familiar with the company's internal dispute mechanisms (if any) for filing grievances.
  • Think before you act. Could your employer see your off-the-job actions as potentially destructive to the company?
  • Don't disclose. "You don't have to disclose lifestyle choices or off-the-clock activities unless there is a clear link to your ability to perform the job," Secunda said. 

"My general advice is, don't do anything on your own time that, if reported in the local paper, would reflect poorly on you or your employer," Bales says.

Latest Jobs

Parker and Lynch
Posted: 05/26/2015
New York, NY, 10017
Parker and Lynch
Posted: 05/26/2015
New York, NY, 10017
Parker and Lynch
Posted: 05/26/2015
Deerfield, IL, 60015
Parker and Lynch
Posted: 05/26/2015
Deerfield, IL, 60015
Parker and Lynch
Posted: 05/26/2015
Burbank, CA, 91504

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.8.0.34-217