Nepotism: favoring relatives and friends in the workplace

Authored by hrsimple
June 14th, 2018

It is not unusual for multiple members of a family to work for the same employer.  However, such situations can be troublesome if the family members are in a superior-subordinate relationship because:

  • the relationship may give rise to favoritism or to suspicions of it
  • the subordinate family member takes advantage of the situation by not working as hard or by not following the orders of the superior family member
  • the superior family member cannot or will not control the activities of the subordinate (including administering discipline when needed or offering constructive criticism on performance evaluations). 

It sometimes happens that employees in a superior-subordinate relationship marry during the employment.  Employers generally allow both parties to remain with the company unless there is no open position to which one of the employees may be moved.  However, it is important to address such situations on a case-by-case basis to avoid gender discrimination claims.

In hiring

The recruitment of current employees’ relatives tends to perpetuate the racial, religious and ethnic characteristics of the existing workforce.  Therefore, nepotistic recruiting may be discriminatory where the current workforce is predominantly or exclusively of one race, religion or ethnic group.

Policies against nepotism

Anti-nepotism policies prevent related individuals from working in the same company or department.  Employers choosing to adopt such a policy should state that cases concerning the employment of relatives will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis to ensure maximum flexibility in handling such situations.  Also, the policy should contain an explanation of why the employer discourages the employment of relatives and should describe the circumstances and types of relationships covered by the policy.  The employer might also include a list of circumstances and relationships that would be permitted by the policy.

There are a number of sound reasons for anti-nepotism rules and “no fraternization” policies including:

  • avoiding involvement in emotional problems at the home
  • avoiding supervisory conflicts between spouses and relatives
  • avoiding hiring decisions based on favoritism or the appearance of favoritism
  • avoiding vacation and day off scheduling problems
  • avoiding family influence regarding grievances and work conflicts. 

Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of marital status.  However, many state laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on marital status.

A thoughtful “anti-nepotism” policy should allow the employment of family members while avoiding the common operational issues associated with such situations.

SAMPLE ANTI-NEPOTISM POLICY

ABC Company welcomes the opportunity to hire and retain qualified employees who are related to one another by blood or marriage.  However, since such relationships sometimes can create problems in the workplace, including suspicions of favoritism if the related employees are in a supervisor-subordinate relationship, it is the policy of ABC that:

  1. Any employee of ABC who has or acquires a familial relationship (as defined below) with another employee shall not have any direct or indirect administrative or operational authority over the other person.  This prohibition means not only that a person cannot supervise a family member but also that the family member cannot be in that person's chain of command; for example, a family member cannot work in a department in which a family member is the Vice President.
  2. An employee of ABC cannot use his/her authority or position with ABC to benefit or to disadvantage another employee in a familial relationship.  Although all such potential misuses of authority cannot be listed here, examples include an employee signing an evaluation for a family member or signing/approving a check payable to a family member.
  3. Employees are required to notify the company’s Human Resources Department of (a) any existing familial relationships; (b) any familial relationships that are created among employees (for example, by the marriage of two employees); and (c) the potential employment by ABC of a family member.
  4. ABC will refuse to hire a job applicant who is in a familial relationship with a current employee if the applicant would be in a supervisory or subordinate position to the existing employee.  ABC employees who marry one another during their employment will be allowed to remain with the company unless they are in a superior-subordinate relationship and there is no open position to which one of them may be moved.
  5. “Familial relationship” within the meaning of this policy means two employees (or an employee and a job applicant) in the relationship of husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandfather, grandmother, grandson or granddaughter, or any of those relationships arising as a result of marriage (for example, brother-in-law).   

 



Related posts

Guidelines for a valid no-solicitation/no-distribution policy

Guidelines for a Valid No-Solicitation/No-Distribution Policy This blog was written by Fiona Ong at Shawe Rosenthal, author of our Maryland Human Resources Manual. You can find the original blog post here and their Labor & Employment Report newsletter (which is excellent) here.   Man... read more

Personal hygiene in the workplace

When you took your job in HR, you knew that you would have to face some uncomfortable situations: terminations, poor performance reviews, disciplinary actions, but perhaps the worst of all is the “we need to talk about your personal hygiene” conversation. Your staff’s poor personal hygiene can ne... read more

Conducting internal I-9 audits

This blog is an excerpt from our book Employment Verification – An Employer’s Guide to Immigration, Form I-9 and E-Verify by David Selden and Julie Pace at The Cavanagh Law Firm. For more information, go to the Products tab above and click on "Federal" to subscribe.   For many years, an emp... read more

Attendance policies

Needless to say, a company can’t operate (let alone succeed) if the employees aren’t showing up to work. But how do you ensure that your workforce will consistently report for duty? One good step is having a clear attendance policy. Communicating clearly about what are acceptable reasons to miss ... read more

The Form I-9 has changed… Again!

Immigration enforcement is a major priority for the Trump Administration. Work site enforcement and I-9 audits and inquiries by ICE have been increasing and they will continue to increase. In addition to this, yet another new I-9 form was issued in 2017. All employers must use the new Form I-9 du... read more

Arizona sick day policy

Arizona sick day policy Julie A. Pace, The Cavanagh Law Firm This blog comes directly from the Arizona Human Resources Manual. If you are an hrsimple.com member, just log in and go to Chapter 21, Personnel manuals and policies. Beginning on July 1, 2017, under Arizona law, all employees ... read more

Vacation policies and time off

Not all employers provide employees with vacation time, but for those who do it is wise to have a clear, well-enforced policy in place to prevent confusion and help employees understand what steps need to be followed in order to use their time off. If employers decide to provide time off they nee... read more

Employee handbooks – getting a handle on your policies

While there may be no state or federal law requiring an employer to have a handbook, there are a number or reasons why they are in an employer’s best interest.  Usefulness. It is beneficial for there to be one definitive source on the terms of employment. If an employee ever has a question ... read more