The Florida Department of Corrections’ Secretary, Michael D. Crews, sent a memo today to “DCAll”- the designation for a mass email to all 23,000 employees – announcing a new, take-no-prisoners policy on employee conduct. Crews says that, from this point forward, “any” employee who engages in “any” criminal conduct or who violates “any” criminal statute “…will be placed on administrative leave and the Department will initiate disciplinary action for dismissal.” (Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a PDF copy of the two-page memo).
As written, Crews’ extremist policy applies even if you haven’t been arrested, charged or convicted. It only requires conduct “…[that] violates any criminal statute…” It applies to conduct on the job, off the job, out of state or out of the country. In other words, it is unlimited in scope. And it applies to the most minor offenses – misdemeanors – which many people commit daily with the best of intentions. Wrote a check, did you, for groceries without enough money in your account? You’re fired. That’s a crime under section 823.05, Florida Statutes. And, excuse me, but did you just drop that on the ground? Littering is a crime under section 404.413. Just two beers, ossifer – DUI? Yup, under section 316.193. Carry your prescription medications in a handy pill organizer, but don’t have the original pharmacy container with you and don’t have proof of the prescription? Well, I hope you have your toothbrush, because you’re going to jail for possession of a controlled substance under section 893.13(6)(a). Hunting and fishing violations, rude but harmless disorderly conduct at a football game or party, and possession of any amount of marjuana……it doesn’t matter.
Under Crews’ policy, you’re out of work. The policy is unnecessary, intrusive and, like many similar “zero-tolerance” policies, will never be enforced consistently. If it were, hoards of honest, hardworking DOC employees would be fired weekly. So would employees at any other workplace that adopted such an outrageous policy. It might encourage false accusations. Or, you might find your own words used against you, from a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter post.
There’s no telling what triggered this memo. I assume it was something specific. It’s tone and poorly thought-out content leave open the possibility it was written hastily, maybe even in anger. I doubt it was reviewed by the agency’s legal department. They have bright in-house lawyers, many of whom I know, and I can’t think of one there that would have advised Crews this policy is wise or enforceable.
Perhaps it will soon be followed by a clarification that narrows the preposterously-broad scope of this policy. For now, DOC employees should be cautious. It’s the official policy of the agency, effective immediately. Bosses with malice in their hearts now have a new tool to go after their targets in the workplace. So be careful what you do, what you reveal, what you post. Big Brother – Michael Crews – is watching you.