When a Colleague Leaves Under a Cloud

Should an employer share any of the details with employees?

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Suzanne Lucas

I received the following e-mail: 'X' has been suspended, with pay, pending the results of an investigation. Please don't make quick judgments regarding this situation. We want to allow this to play out fairly. During this time, 'Y' will assume the duties of "acting director." Programs and activities will continue as planned.

The E-mail was sent by the President of my college. Is this a legal practice?

I’m not going to jump into the legal/illlegal game, as I am not a lawyer. You’ll have to go elsewhere for free legal advice.

But, I will answer whether or not I think this E-mail was a good idea. And I think it was. Why? Because anytime someone is suspended from work, the gossiping begins. And because, in these situations, those who actually know what's going on aren’t talking, that leaves a whole bunch of people who know nothing standing around and speculating.

Speculation is never helpful and frequently harmful. The suspension is not a secret—it couldn’t be. ("Gee, where’s is Diane? How come Sue is doing her job?") This E-mail tells everyone what is going on, how the college is taking action and what to expect. It's clear that you're to go to Sue while Diane is gone. You don’t need to stand around and say, “Gee, with Diane being suspended, are we still going to have our fill-in-the-blank program?”

In an ideal world, investigations would take minutes, not weeks or months. We’d know immediately what really happened and who had lied. We’d make the right decision instantaneously. But, this is the real world and these things can take time. So, even though this seems like a cruel thing to do to the suspended employee, it actually is easier on her than letting people speculate.

Hopefully everything will be resolved quickly and correctly.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of h uman r esources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady .