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What to do when put on paid administrative leave

  • By: Katie Lipp
    Published: April 5, 2023

Being placed on paid administrative leave can be an intimidating and confusing experience. Administrative leave is when an employee is relieved of their normal job duties and asked to stay home during their normal work hours but still receives their pay and benefits.

This is typically done when an employee is the subject of an internal investigation and usually comes with a certain set of employee rights and obligations.

The Lipp Law Firm, PC helps employees regularly that have been placed on administrative leave. The Lipp Law Firm, PC assists employees that are located in the “DMV” area – Washington, DC, Maryland, or Virginia. To get legal help from The Lipp Law Firm, PC with your administrative leave matter, contact us today.

What is administrative leave?

Administrative leave occurs when an employee is instructed not to report to the workplace or to perform their usual job duties for a limited time period. Usually, an employee is placed on administrative leave by their human resources department after an allegation is made or a complaint is filed against the employee. The employee is placed on administrative leave, and continues to receive their pay and benefits, but is relieved of their work duties while human resources conducts a fact-finding investigation to determine whether the complaint or allegation is valid.

Why would someone be put on administrative leave?

The main reason for putting someone on administrative leave is to protect the people and resources of the organization. While it can be for various reasons, it often involves alleged misconduct that could threaten the safety or security of the workplace.

Whether it’s workplace violence, sexual harassment, breach of confidentiality, or misuse of company property, an employer may use administrative leave to investigate the allegations and ensure the safety of their people and resources. It is important for any employer to ensure the safety of their workplace and the people within it, but for the employee who is placed on administrative leave, the experience can be extremely stressful, anxiety-inducing, and cause reputational and career harm. Having an experienced employment law attorney who has advised other employees who have been placed on administrative leave in your workplace or profession is critical to help explain the process, protect your job, protect your reputation, and give you critical peace of mind.

Employee rights and obligations

Employees have certain rights and obligations when placed on administrative leave.

The rights that an employee has while they are on administrative leave include:

  • The right to be treated comparably to other employees that have taken similar actions
  • The right not to be subjected to any retaliation or harassment while on leave
  • The right, while still employed, to keep being paid and receiving benefits
  • The right to not be the subject of defamation (false statements made to third parties)
  • The right to maintain your parental responsibilities (i.e., for educators, even if you cannot access school grounds, you still have the right to drop off and pick up your child from school, and attend school events for your child)

The obligations that an employee has on administrative leave generally include:

  • Remaining available for contact with your employer and cooperating with the investigation
  • Responding to any requests from your employer promptly
  • Refraining from discussing the details of the investigation with anyone outside of the organization. Sometimes, the organization will direct the employee not to speak with other employees about the investigation.

What should you do when you are on administrative leave?

When placed on administrative leave, it’s important to follow these best practices to protect your reputation and your future:

  1. Consult With An Employment Attorney
  2. Stay in Communication With Your Employer
  3. Avoid Getting Pulled Into the “Gossip Mill”
  4. Letters of Recommendation
  5. Explore Other Job Options
  6. Practice Self Care Through Healthy Distractions
  7. Consult With An Employment Attorney

Consult with an employment attorney experienced in advising employees on administrative leave. An employment attorney can help you navigate the situation, protect your rights and interests, including your job, your reputation, and your peace of mind. It can be immensely helpful just to have an employment attorney explain the administrative leave process to you, so you know what lies ahead and what potential outcomes are in your future.

  1. Stay in Communication With Your Employer

When you are on administrative leave, you still want to check your work email and phone, that way you can promptly communicate with your employer. Your human resources department or supervisor may contact you to ask questions, or set up an interview, or even to tell you that your administrative leave has ended and you can return to your job (this would be a best case scenario!). By staying in communication with your employer, you can fulfill your administrative leave obligations and avoid further harm to your job, stress levels, or reputation.

  1. Avoid Getting Pulled Into the “Gossip Mill”

When you are on administrative leave, you will want to avoid getting pulled into the “gossip mill.” You will be tempted to call other colleagues or talk to others who may have knowledge about why you are on administrative leave. It’s very important to not appear to human resources that you are trying to “steer” their investigation or meddle with it, otherwise that could cause you further potential harm to your employment and reputation.

  1. Letters of Recommendation

It can be helpful to obtain letters of recommendation, so long as it does not appear to investigators that you are “campaigning” or trying to steer their investigation. The letters of recommendation can be helpful if adverse or disciplinary action is proposed against you. You will want to consult with legal counsel on this specific strategy, because while on administrative leave you are not supposed to be speaking with other potential witnesses or others affiliated with your workplace.

  1. Explore Other Job Options

Keep your job options open by updating your resume and refreshing your industry contacts. You want to cover all your bases to protect your future and make sure you have multiple job options in the unfortunate event of job loss.

  1. Practice Self Care Through Healthy Distractions

Finally, practicing self-care and mental care while on leave is important. Being in limbo can be an incredibly emotionally taxing experience, and taking advantage of any available resources to maintain mental wellness during this time is important. Taking on a “healthy” distraction can be beneficial, such as exercise, a hobby, or journaling.

How long does administrative leave last?

Administrative leave does not have a set duration of time, and the length depends on the situation. Employees subject to an investigation will be required to cooperate and may be placed on leave until that investigation is complete. The length of time an individual is on leave will depend on the complexity of the investigation and its outcomes.

Can you return from administrative leave?

In the event of an allegation or complaint, employees are eligible to resume their positions only after a thorough investigation determines what happened, and what necessary next steps must be taken. If the accusation or complaint is proven true, which is sometimes called “founded”, the employee may face termination, suspension, or other disciplinary measures.

Regardless of the outcome, it is crucial for employees to comply with the employer’s policies and engage in clear communication throughout the investigative process to facilitate their successful return, if that option is available.

Can you take up another job when on paid leave?

Depending on the specific situation, employees on paid leave may be allowed to search for or take up another job during their leave. However, checking the terms of leave and the organization’s policy on job-searching while on leave is important. Taking up another job before the leave is complete may be considered a violation of policy.

It’s also important to note that employers don’t always need to allow employees to take up another job while on leave. It is up to the employer’s discretion; the employee can only take up another job if the employer’s policies allow for it, and employees should only do so under the guidance of an employee education attorney.

You will want to note that depending on where you are working from, different employment laws apply that control how much your employer can limit you from working other jobs. For example, Washington, DC has very employee-friendly employment laws that limit how much employers can prevent outside employment, and non-compete agreements are under heavy legal scrutiny.

Hire an employment attorney

If you or your loved one are placed on administrative leave and feel uncertain or confused about your rights and obligations, it is always advisable to hire an administrative leave lawyer. At The Lipp Law Firm, our experienced employment attorneys can help guide you through the legal process, ensuring your rights and interests are protected at every step.

Our knowledgeable and approachable team is here to provide you with the necessary advice and support you need. We understand this may be a difficult and confusing time, and we are here to guide you and provide you with professional, competent representation. Contact us today at (703) 896-7704 to schedule a consultation.

Kathryn Megan Lipp

Katie dedicates her practice to employment separation guidance.
Based on her successful employment litigation practice...Read More