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Boss's Affair With Worker Can Jeopardize a Company

10.13.09

David Letterman is a great comedian and talk show host. He's been one of the kings of late night for years. But his recent announcement that he has had affairs with several of his female employees suggests that he's a better entertainer than executive. A smart boss would not have found himself in the kind of sexual scandal that Letterman was mired in last week.

What's wrong with what happened at Worldwide Pants, Letterman's production company? From the perspective of a labor and employment lawyer, it's hard to even know where to start. According to a company spokesman, Worldwide Pants had no policy that prohibited intimate relationships between supervisors and subordinates. Letterman wasn't actually violating his company's policy by sleeping with many of his female employees. That doesn't mean that his behavior was acceptable — just that the policy was inadequate. Many companies will allow co-employees to date, but they draw the line at supervisor-employee relationships … for good reason.

Lawsuits can make private relationships very public even when no sports or entertainment celebrity is involved. Companies hoping to avoid the same kind of mess should:

David Letterman may survive to joke another day, but the CEO of XYZ Company may not be so lucky.

This article appeared in the October 13, 2009 issue of The Houston Chronicle.

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