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Employment Law/Coworker dating

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Question
About a year and a half ago a coworker and myself began dating. I am a manager and she is a cashier. Word got out about our relationship and the store manager went to the district manager and then to human resources about our relationship. At this point in time there was no policy about coworker dating in our company and the human resource manager said that it was ok as long as no issues occured at work. To this point no issues have happened at work. Today the new associate handbook came out and there is now a section about coworker dating stating associates are prohibited from dating any associate whom he or she directly or indirectly supervises. The company goes on to state that one of the parties must transfer and they will do their best to accommodate the transfer. It doesn't say anything about if they cannot accommodate the transfer. Can they enforce this policy on us and force a transfer? We work in New York State for a large company. Thanks for your help.

Answer
Adam:

I had to research New York law on this exact question a few weeks ago for another (private) questioner on this site.  The state does not prohibit employers from imposing and enforcing reasonable rules against intra-employee relationships.  The rule as you've described it is generally considered reasonable, in New York and other states, as long as it is consistently applied in similar circumstances.

I assume your coworker is not represented by a union, so there is no way to enforce this suggestion, but it might be worth your while to suggest to HR that imposing this rule on someone who already had such a relationship at the time the rule was announced is unfair, and ask for an exception, so long as there continue to be no problems in the workplace resulting from your relationship.  You never know, management might agree and give you (and anyone else in the same circumstances, where no complaints or disruption have occurred) a "grandfather" exception.  But that is a decision entirely up to management, and I'm afraid you'll have to abide by the decision, whatever it may be.

Sorry I can't give you a more pleasant answer, but I hope this is helpful to you.

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Frank C. Magill

Expertise

I can answer questions about any U.S. labor or employment law question. I cannot answer questions about non-US law. I am not a specialist in employee benefit law (ERISA and HIPAA) or Workers' Compensation law, but will do my best to point questioners toward good resources availabe online. Expertise includes, without limitation, EEO/Affirmative Action/Employment discrimination (Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, GINA, Fair Credit Reporting Act as applied to employment); Fair Labor Standards Act; Texas labor code; Family Medical Leave Act; employee compensation; discipline and dismissal; force reductions, severance pay programs and administration; collective bargaining, union representation, grievances and arbitration, National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board; employee handbooks; staffing; dispute resolution outside of traditional labor agreements; employee communications; employment policies and compliance programs; codes of ethics; employment or labor litigation.

Experience

30+ years experience as corporate counsel for a Fortune 100 telecom company, specializing in labor and employment law issues. In addition to providing day-to-day advice to my company's internal HR leadership and staff, I've represented the company in numerous labor arbitration cases and at the bargaining table.

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Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

Education/Credentials
J.D. 1979, Harvard Law School. B.A., Summa Cum Laude, 1976, Illinois Wesleyan University.

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