This employee has made a threat of physical violence and her conduct in sending a threatening text should be treated as an allegation of gross misconduct. Whilst the sanction for allegations of gross misconduct is summary dismissal it is important not to make any hasty decisions and ensure that you follow your disciplinary procedure. If you simply dismissed without following your disciplinary procedure then the dismissal may be deemed unfair because the employee has not been given the opportunity to respond to the allegations made against her.
You should consider suspending the employee in these circumstances due to the nature of the alleged conduct. It’s important not to jump to suspension as the only way to remove the employee from the situation – you could achieve the same effect by other means – but a threat of violence in such a threatening text may make actual suspension necessary. In order to support the notion that the behaviour could be gross misconduct, it would be appropriate for some type of measure in this regard to be taken.
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It is important that the text message is kept because it is evidence. You should also make sure that your approach is consistent with how the organisation has dealt with any similar incidents in the past.
It’s important that you follow up with the employee subsequent to your initial instruction. Telling an employee to leave and not to return could be seen as an instant dismissal, so make sure that you implement a disciplinary procedure so show that you had not, in that instance, dismissed the employee.
Peter Done is managing director and founder of HR consultancy Peninsula