Nepotism on the Job -- 4 Questions to Ask

Mark S Guralnick

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Family Law Attorney

Contributor Level 14

Posted over 4 years ago. 1 helpful vote



All in the Family?

Who is considered an employee's family member or relative? A policy should be defined sufficiently to indicate whether it applies to spouses, parents, parent-in-laws, grandparents, children, daughter-in-laws, son-in-laws, natural siblings, half-brothers, half-sisters, cousins, nephews and/or nieces.


Who's the Boss?

What is the line of authority and will new employees follow that line? Even if an employee's relative can be hired for a position that presents no conflicts with the existing employee and raises no concerns about supervision, security, or undue influence, will the new employee enjoy the same opportunities for growth and promotion or will she be sidetracked by the need to avoid the first employee's line of authority.


Special Treatment?

Can the new employee be placed in a position that will not afford him any special treatment from any family member with supervisory authority? What exactly does it mean to have "supervisory authority?" Santa Barbara County, California answers this question in its nepotism policy by defining "supervisory employee" or "supervisor" as any employee, regardless of job description or title, having authority in the interest of the employer to hire, transfer, suspend, layoff, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or responsibility to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend this action, if, in the connection with the foregoing, the exercise of this authority is not of a merely routine or clerical nature, but requires the use of independent judgment.


Til Death do You Part?

What if two existing employees wish to get married? Will such an event place them both in violation of the policy? Or would it be permissible as long as neither of them supervises the other? Prohibiting marriage between employees could be construed as unconstitutional or otherwise discriminatory. In Ben and Lachelle Foss v. Vortex Fishing Systems, for example, the Montana Human Rights Commission concluded that the employer's nepotism policy was discriminatory because it required one employee or the other to quit the job if the couple got married.

Additional Resources

Favoritism, Cronyism and Nepotism

Nepotism in Hiring Employees

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