Work romance ends? Separate the former lovers

When a sexual relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate ends, there’s likely to be trouble in the workplace. If the subordinate is complaining about how her former lover is treating her at work, the only safe course of action is to remove the supervisor entirely.

Letting him retain any power over the subordinate opens up a real danger that she’ll claim quid pro quo sexual harassment if she is later terminated, demoted or otherwise adversely affected by any decision the supervisor had any part in.

Recent case: Ginger and her supervisor, Scott, began a consensual sexual relationship that lasted two years until Ginger broke it off.

By her account, Scott remained “controlling” at work and threatened to put her on a “coaching plan.”

That’s when Ginger went to HR and explained that she and Scott had been lovers, but she had ended the relationship. Now, she explained, she believed Scott was trying to set her up to be fired.

HR investigated and took away Scott’s responsibility for preparing performance reviews for Ginger. However, he kept his day-to-day supervisory responsibilities.

Later, Ginger was assigned to plan a holiday party for clients. She asked Scott how much she could spend. He told her $250. She ended up spending $560 for the party for 100 clients. Ginger’s other supervisor then wrote her up for insubordination.

When the company underwent a reduction-in-force, Ginger lost her job, partly because of that disciplinary mark on her record.

Ginger sued, alleging both quid pro quo harassment and retaliation for reporting it.

The court said her case could go forward. A jury will decide whether Scott’s actions led to Ginger’s termination because she had cut off their relationship. (Pung v. Regus, DC MN, 2017)