The boss’s wife is falsely accusing me of sleeping with him. What are my rights?

I work for a small company. Recently I have been harassed by my boss’s wife. She thinks I am sleeping with him. She’s asked numerous times for copies of receipts from the company credit card. She is in no way involved in the company aside from being married to the owner. This has been going on for 7 weeks.  She’s obviously not letting anything go, even though its been proven multiple times no one is sleeping with her husband.  Is there any action that can be taken on my part? We don’t have an HR department and I’m not really sure how any of this would be handled due to the fact that it’s the owner’s wife causing the issues.

Rita Risser Chai and Ann Kiernan respond:

Unless the wife is an owner, officer, or director of the company, she has no right to the financial records. Refusing to provide them may be protected activity under state whistleblower laws. You should put the boss on notice that you are protecting the company’s rights.

This may not be sexual harassment. There was a case where a dental assistant was fired because the dentist’s wife thought the assistant was too good-looking and the dentist was attracted to her.  The dental assistant lost. The Iowa state supreme court held it was not sex discrimination.

This is one of a line of cases holding that spousal jealousy was a lawful reason for termination (and therefore, I assume, for taking lesser adverse actions) where the spouse was jealous of a particular individual, but not where the spouse was jealous of an entire sex. 

This may be defamation, since she is accusing you of having an affair, which is not true. It also possibly could be invasion of privacy.

It would be best if the boss told his wife to knock it off, and gave you permission to block calls from her or hang up immediately if you can’t block calls. You may want to start documenting how many times she calls and keep any texts, emails, letters or other evidence. If it continues, you may want to contact a local attorney. Good luck.

Posted 07-17-2018

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.

2018-07-17T22:29:45+00:00

About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.