Office romances

Company policy costs company veteran his job
“The art of love… is largely the art of persistence.” – Albert Ellis
For company veteran Bryan Reichard, the Garden of Eden simply had too many forbidden fruits. Reichard, a senior manager at Kitchener, Ontario’s Kuntz Electroplating Inc., was a model employee for nearly 25 years, until he laid eyes on Ms. Thompson, one of the administrative assistants who he would eventually date as part of an extra-marital affair. It was a fatal attraction that later cost him his job.
Initially, Reichard’s relationship with Thompson was not a significant workplace concern until Kuntz instituted a policy on dating colleagues at work. Under the policy, as a manager, Reichard had to report his relationship to the company to ensure conflicts of interest, such as direct reporting relationships, could be avoided. However, Reichard’s relationship with Thompson predated the policy so he decided he would not say a word.
When a position later became available in the department Reichard managed, he ensured that Thompson obtained the job, over two other candidates. Unhappy with the perceived favouritism, staff began to complain and when rumours spread around work, Reichard was finally asked whether he was romantically involved with Thompson. He lied and denied it. However, after Thompson later gave birth to Reichard’s son, he could no longer keep silent, confiding in another employee who shared the news with Robert Kuntz Jr., one of the company’s owners.
Reichard was suspended from work and commanded to stay off the property while Kuntz decided how to handle the problem. However, when Kuntz learned that Reichard had snuck back into his office, against orders, he was fired for misconduct, without severance pay.
At a recent trial, Reichard argued that his punishment did not fit the crime. According to Reichard, his long and unblemished career meant he was entitled to a warning first, before being fired. However, the judge disagreed and in dismissing Reichard’s case, noted that his repeated lies justified his own demise.
There are some important lessons for employees:

  • Workplace relationships are not illegal and it is not cause for dismissal to date a colleague. However, it may become a disciplinary issue when one employee reports to the other.
  • Address allegations intelligently. Ironically, it was not even Reichard’s failure to report the relationship that cost him the case; it was his refusal to obey the order to stay away from work while under investigation.

Author: Daniel Lublin
Publication: Metro