I work parttime for a home health agency. During my time off, I received a call from one of my clients saying he cut his hand pretty bad and asked if I would take him to the emergency room. I drove the 10 blocks to his home and upon seeing him, decided he did need to go to the hospital. I drove him there, which was only 2 miles away. Later, I drove him home. I informed my boss about the injury, since the after care affected what other personal care givers had to do with him. She told me I had no business taking him to the ER and scolded me for such. Then she asked me to fill out a incident report, unpaid, and update them of the injury. Then scolded me again.
Can my boss seriously tell me where I can go, and what I can do with my personal time?
Your employer may have been concerned that your efforts to assist the client (which were commendable) may have constituted work time for which you needed to be compensated. Also, in the eyes of the client, you may have been a representative of the home health agency, even though you were off duty. If you had inadvertently worsened the client's condition, then the home health agency could have potentially been legally liable. I'm not sure why they scolded you, but those are two possibilities. However, even if your employer was concerned about either of those issues, they could have conveyed their concerns in a constructive positive manner, and given you some credit for being a really caring person. Aferall, that's the kind of person that they should want on their staff.
Attorney's Jackson's analysis, in my opinion, is spot on and exactly what I would have said. However, in addition and to answer the specific question you asked, no, your boss cannot dictate what you do in your personal time. While they can express concerns perhaps over what you do in your personal time if it may have an overlapping effect on your performance or your employment in general, you boss cannot really control what you do or do not do.
Hope that helped.
James A. Walcheske
Walcheske & Luzi, LLC
This answer was provided for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed or interpreted as providing legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship.
Wisconsin is an employment-at-will state. This means that an employer can hire, fire, discipline, etc., for a good reason, a bad reason or for no reason at all unless doing so violates some written law like the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act which prohibits discrimination based on certain personal characteristics. What you have described does not sound like discrimination, without knowing more about how others are treated or whether you were singled out for scoulding based on your race, religion, gender or other protected characertistics. See the link to the ERD website on discrimination for more information on unlawful discrimination. So I see the situation a bit differently. While I agree that the scoulding sounds unfair, it does not sound unlawful absent an unlawful discriminatory motive. If your employer does not like what you do outside of work, the employer could terminate your employment because of that dislike. Note: there is a Wisconsin law that prohibits an employer from terminating someone for the lawful use of a product outside of work, and that is about the only limitation on specific non-work activity of which I am aware of in Wisconsin law, but that is not the situation you have described. Unless the employer's motive falls into the category of unlawful discrimination, the employment-at-will doctrine says there is no violation of law for taking adverse employment actions based on conduct occuring outside of the workplace. The employer may also have legitimate concerns about potential liability as described by other attorneys answering your question. Those concerns are probably legitimate areas for an employer to address with you.
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