In the wake of the recent scandal involving late-night host David Letterman, Mike Maslanka, editor of Texas Employment Law Letter, provides advice on how to deal with the relationship dynamics between the top brass and their subordinates in his latest podcast. A top boss must never become romantically involved with a subordinate, says Maslanka.
In his podcast, Maslanka contemplates the pitfalls of such relationships, noting how employees always closely observe the top boss’ conduct, whether he or she is a CEO, a partner in a law firm, or a restaurant manager. If an employer has a strict anti-fraternization policy that states a supervisor who dates a subordinate will be fired and the boss engages in such behavior, Maslanka says not only will the policy mean nothing to employees, but “the boss will be deposed in every lawsuit filed by a supervisor fired under the rule.”
Maslanka provides several tips on how to handle workplace relationships between bosses and subordinates. According to his podcast, you should:
- Require top bosses to agree in writing that if they are accused of misconduct, they will consent to an investigation by a third party. Make this a condition of top bosses’ employment, and include it as a clause in their employment contract if there is one.
- Do not confuse the CEO with the company or the company with the CEO. They are two separate entities, and you need to protect the company.
- Never require complaining employees to agree not to talk to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You may want to cut off a lawsuit as soon as you can and settle with the complaining employees, but requesting a gag clause can be its own violation of the law.
- If sexual harassment allegations are totally without merit, it may be a good idea to wage a fight against the accusations.
Michael P. Maslanka is managing partner of the Dallas office of Ford & Harrison. He is board-certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and writes Texas Employment Law Letter. He is also a member of the Employers Counsel Network. You can find more of his podcasts online, follow him on Twitter, and read his “Work Matters” blog. You can contact his office at 214-256-4702.