Cupid in the workplace: You can terminate supervisor for lying about personal relationship

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in Firing,HR Management,Human Resources

Workplace rules exist for a reason. For example, if you have a rule prohibiting supervisors from dating subordinates, you’re probably trying to prevent sexual harassment claims.

After all, relationships often sour. And anytime someone in a re­­la­tion­ship has a power position, it’s possible that the relationship isn’t truly voluntary.

At the very least, after the end of the affair, em­­ployers risk that the jilted employee will claim it was sexual harassment rather than a consensual relationship.

But what if you suspect a supervisor/subordinate relationship, but the two people deny it? You probably can’t do anything more than reiterate the rules.

If it turns out the supervisor lied, you can certainly terminate him or her—both for breaking the rule and then lying about it.

Recent case: Arlester Jones, who is black, worked as a supervisor for Dole Foods after being selected for promotion by his boss. For several years, he received good evaluations and regular raises.

Then several of his employees complained that Jones appeared to be engaging in a personal relationship with a subordinate. The em­­ployees explained that the two took vacation at the same time, flirted with each other and generally acted as if they were involved in a romantic relationship.

Jones’ boss confronted him with the allegations and explained the company rule against dating subordinates. He even told Jones that if he wanted to date the individual in question, one of them could be transferred to another section. Then, their relationship wouldn’t break any rules.

Jones denied the relationship existed.

Much later, someone turned over an email Jones apparently wrote to the woman and left on a printer. The email indicated that the two had re­­cently ended their relationship. Dole terminated Jones for breaking the rule and lying about it.

Jones sued, alleging that the real reason he was terminated was be­­cause the woman is white and he is black.

But the court didn’t buy it. Instead, it upheld the discharge and dismissed the case. (Jones v. Dole Food Com­­pany, No. 3:10-CV-292, WD NC, 2011)

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Arlester Jones August 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm

This whole article and story is a lie! I did not supervise the woman in question and she never worked for me! I worked day shift and she worked nights. There was no policy prohibiting the relationship. The employer was told about the relationship in January 2008, by their own admission, and I was terminated in September 2008. The court dismissed the case because I couldn’t afford legal representation, depositions and affidavits and had to file the action on my own after two years of EEOC inaction and based purely on contradictory affidavit testimony of the employer.

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