Can I be punished because I had an affair with a co-worker?

I had an affair with another employee’s wife off the clock on my personal time. She and I work the same shift in the same district. There has not been any unprofessional conduct on the clock between the two of us. My supervisors recently called me in regarding this situation and questioned me on my personal sexual activity and it has resolved in them transferring me to another district and also a change of schedule to overnight shift. Is this illegal and do I have a case involving retaliation in the work place?

Posted  03-11-2011

Ann Kiernan replies:

This does not sound illegal to me, based on what you wrote. Management does have a legitimate reason to inquire about a relationship if it is affecting work. My guess is that co-workers have complained, and that your supervisors are trying to avoid issues with conflict of interest and the possibility of claims of preferential treatment, or even of sexual harassment or sexual favoritism.

Since you indicated that you are a public employee in Arizona, you would need to look at your union contract, any civil service rules, local ordinances, and Arizona state law on privacy. Your union may be able to help you get a legal opinion on the question. Good luck.


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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.