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Firing OK for breaking no-dating policy?

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Q. Our company policy prohibits managers from dating subordinates. I have just learned that a manager has violated this rule. May we terminate him?

A. California law does not specifically prohibit ­employers from restricting the dating practices of their ­employees. However, employers must ensure that such a policy is based on a legitimate business justification that outweighs the employees’ right to privacy.  

Moreover, employees must be informed of and understand the policy, and be alerted to the consequences of violating this rule.

Employers also should note that the Labor Code now allows employees to file a claim with the Labor Com­­mis­­sioner for “loss of wages as a result of demotion, suspension or discharge from employment for lawful conduct occurring during nonworking hours away from the em­­ployer’s premises.”

Although it is unclear how this provision (passed by the Legislature last year) will affect nonfraternization rules, employers should review these policies with an attorney to minimize the potential exposure to claims before the Labor Commissioner—or worse, a lawsuit for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

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