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The perils of sex in the corner office

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

And now, a cautionary tale in the form of Spencer Stuart headhunter Dennis Carey, who wooed and promoted his protégé, Marie-Caroline von Weichs, then fired her when she dumped him and now finds himself in the middle of an ugly—and very public—lawsuit.

It seems that, during their three year affair, Carey showered favors upon von Weichs, even placing her in charge of a super-exclusive club for CEOs. The lovers even wrote a book together: How to Run a Company.

Love letters, extravagant gifts and sappy e-mail now form the basis of the lawsuit, as von Weichs has joined forces with Carey’s estranged wife, accusing him of lying under oath and trying to hide assets.

Von Weichs also claims that when she ended the affair and tried to put their relationship on a purely professional level, Carey had her fired in retaliation, despite the fact that she had tripled membership in the club.

A few friendly reminders:
  • Don’t lie. Apparently, Carey lied repeatedly to von Weichs about the status of his marriage. In a deposition, he said he’d had only a “brief” affair with her, when it apparently lasted more than three years. He also was forced to disclose additional financial assets.
  • Don’t cheat. To be taken seriously, leaders need to uphold high standards of conduct. Carey not only cheated on his wife, he also acknowledged cheating on von Weichs.
  • Remember that e-mail is not private. It never was private. It never will be private.
  • Distance yourself. Supervising someone with whom you’re having an illicit affair is risky business. Promoting one is even riskier. Firing one you’ve promoted is practically begging for a lawsuit.
 The lesson: Even if you’ve lost your heart to someone you work with, try not to lose your brain.

— Adapted from “Sex, Lies, and Lawsuits,” Peter Elkind, Fortune.

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