From today’s San Diego Union-Tribune:
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Last February, the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) released a survey that found over a third of American workers have been, or currently are, involved in a workplace romance. Even during the pandemic, a quarter of U.S. workers either began a new workplace romance or continued one sparked before the pandemic.
But office romances can be complicated. Jeff Zucker recently resigned as head of CNN after the network learned he had failed to timely disclose his intimate relationship with Allison Gollust, the network’s executive vice president.
What may a private at-will California employer do when faced with workplace romance?
California’s constitutional right to privacy protects employees of both private and government employers. California law further provides a procedural mechanism through which an employee may obtain lost wages and reinstatement for engaging in “lawful conduct occurring during nonworking hours away from the employer’s premises.”
California law nonetheless gives employers a relatively free hand when romantically linked co-workers are supervisor and subordinate.
It is not unlawful marital status discrimination for an employer, for morale and other reasons, to refuse to allow an employee to supervise their spouse or to refuse to place both spouses in the same department “if the work involves potential conflicts of interest or other hazards greater for married couples than for other persons.”
An employer has similar rights to manage unmarried employees in a supervisor-subordinate relationship. In 2003, the San Diego division of the California Court of Appeal ruled in Barbee v. Household Automotive Finance Corp. that HAFC did not violate sales manager Robert Barbee’s reasonable expectation of privacy by terminating Barbee for continuing a romantic relationship with a subordinate after being warned not to. The court declined to recognize a broad right of a supervisor to pursue an intimate relationship with a subordinate.
Read the complete story here.