People lead complicated, messy lives. Sometimes problems spill over to the workplace. That’s especially true when co-workers have relationships outside of work.
When bad romance spills over to the workplace, you don’t have to put up with the aftermath. Set strict rules about behavior and don’t tolerate loud arguments, threats or other disruptions.
Recent case: Eric, who is of mixed black and white racial ancestry, worked as an assembler for a Walmart store. He was living with one co-worker while carrying on a sexual relationship with yet another co-worker whom he later accused of sexual harassment.
While at work, he had a loud argument with the second woman that culminated in breaking off the relationship. During the break-up shouting match, the woman hit him.
Later, the second woman told Eric’s live-in girlfriend about their now defunct relationship. Another workplace argument ensued and ended with Eric allegedly telling the second woman that he would “get” her. He was fired for making threats; the second woman was fired for hitting Eric.
He sued, alleging race discrimination and sexual harassment.
The court tossed out the case, reasoning that Walmart was free to enforce workplace civility rules and had done so fairly. (Motto v. Wal-Mart, No. 13-2593, 3rd Cir., 2014)
Final note: There is simply no reason to put up with domestic drama at work. However, beware punishing workers for off-duty incidents. Some states have laws against firing victims of domestic abuse, for example.
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- Carefully document every rule violation to defend against surprise claims