Affair at work, any business of my boss?

Can I get fired for having an affair with someone at work? We don’t report to each other and don’t even work together.

Posted 03-04-2014

Steve Duggan replies:

I notice that you work in California. As with almost all states, CA is an employment-at-will state, which means the employer can fire (and the employee can quit) for any reason, or no reason. The only limitation for the employer is that the reason can’t be one that violates the law. Since there is no law specifically protecting a right to engage in any personal relationships in the workplace, the employer can fire one or the other, or both, and not violate the law. However, if the real reason for the termination were something else, i.e. a manager terminated a person for a romance because the couples were of the same gender or of different races or religions, then that would be against the law and the firing illegal. The legitimate concerns most employers have about workplace romances are about the potential conflicts internally and with outside business. As with most business decisions, the employer should also carefully consider the possible adverse effect on morale of other employees to fire someone in that situation.

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Steve Duggan graduated from the Law School at the University of Notre Dame while on active duty in the Air Force. He has extensive experience representing management litigating cases of wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment. Steve also has experience in all phases of administrative litigation of unfair labor practice charges, and class and individual complaints of employment discrimination. He has been an instructor of seminars for supervisors and managers on labor management relations and other personnel issues, and for lawyers in basic and advanced trial advocacy courses. Steve came on board with Fair Measures in 1998.