Intimate relations between a supervisor and her subordinate can cause a host of problems for the employer. For one, workers who also report to that supervisor may believe their co-worker, who is having intimate relations with the supervisor, is getting preferential treatment whether it be access to overtime, preferable tasks or other benefits delegated at the discretion of the supervisor.
There is also the possibility that even if the subordinate initially enters into the intimate relationship voluntarily, he may feel coerced to into staying into the relationship because of the control the supervisor has over him in the workplace.
Additionally, even a voluntary intimate relationship may sour and the subordinate could make a false claim of sexual harassment alleging he was forced into the relationship by the supervisor in order to keep his job. Such a false claim could also be used to cover up the voluntary nature of an adulterous affair.
Employers frequently create a firm policy prohibiting intimate relations between supervisors and their subordinates. Enforcement of such policy must be the same regardless of the gender of the supervisor or the subordinate. When infractions are alleged, the employer should not panic and should always investigate thoroughly before taking disciplinary action.
For supervisors and their subordinates, even if the employer does not have such an anti-fraternization policy, it is extremely imprudent to enter into such a relationship. Both the supervisor and the subordinate have much more at stake than simply a broken heart, they could also lose their reputation and their job.
J. Daniel Marr is a Director and Shareholder at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. His legal practice includes counseling businesses and individuals on a variety of legal issues and advocating on their behalf. Attorney Marr is licensed and practices in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Attorney Marr can be reached at [email protected].