There are times when a little office romance can be the undoing of a company at the worst, or a staff insurance claim at the least-and this was one of those times. A senior executive at a very well respected company in the community got wind that a peer was the talk of the office; not only was this peer, a professional with more than 30 years of experience, seeing someone in the office (a practice frowned upon by management although not strictly prohibited), the man was married (fodder for endless office gossip between a surprising number of people who knew what was going on despite the couple’s efforts to keep the torrid affair under wraps), the woman he was having the affair with was one of his direct reports (a definite violation of company policy).
To make matters worse, the woman-who was placed with the company on a long-term assignment-was recently reassigned to another position, following the censure of the senior executive who had finally been made aware of the office shenanigans. The senior executive had given her peer a very stern warning about the inappropriateness of his behavior, yet he continued unchecked. However, when his paramour found herself in her new, less desirable position in the company, her outlook (and soon thereafter, the relationship) soured. She expressed her anger at her lover’s inability to keep her in the plush position she’d enjoyed previously with a decided lack of commitment-she frequently was late or missed work entirely, she became uncooperative in meetings and unproductive. Her longtime lover appealed to the woman to change her ways, but the damage had been done and the company had seen enough. The HR director talked very candidly with the staffing agency, and both concluded that it was in everyone’s best interest from a potential liability standpoint to remove the woman from the worksite but to do so delicately, without casting a spotlight on her departure. Thus, a few months later, the woman’s contract was among others that were simply not renewed. Nevertheless, the woman felt singled out, knowing that the company executives had become aware of the affair. She expressed her anger and shock with a lawsuit against the staffing company, charging that they wrongfully terminated her from her assignment.
Fortunately, the company had a robust staff insurance program which included employment practices liability coverage. The policy offers protection for the staffing firm for their in-house employees as well as temporary employees whom they place on contract in their clients’ workplaces, covering the firm for claims that include wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination, and more.
Talk to your professional insurance agent about a program to protect your firm today. Also consider adopting company practices that clearly define acceptable parameters for workplace relationships, people who are related (through blood or marriage) in the same work environment, and so on-and enforce them.