Businesswoman fires employee for having an affair with friend's husband. Unethical? Wise?

Yes, it’s a Skaldthetical, though the premise isn’t fantasy and there probably won’t be a poll. (I reserve the right to change my mind at the last second.) If you don’t like these, I understand the Super Bowl is in a few days, and there’s probably a thread about a reality tv show open somewheres.

Today’s story is about Lauren, an attractive fortysomething businesswoman living someplace in–well, let’s say Vermont, since I can’t spell Connecticut. Lauren is managing partner of a firm that owns and operates a dozen inns scattered about New England. She owns 46 percent of the firm; the remaining shares are divided among her six partners, one of whom is Melissa. Melissa used to be a professional chef (she and Lauren started the first inn together), but she gave that up when she and her husband Jackson had the third of their fifth children. The two ladies are the best of friends; when they were both single, Lauren often joked that they were lesbians who always kept their clothes on.

A few nights ago, Melissa showed up at Lauren’s door in tears. She had horrible news: Jackson is leaving her for another woman. Melissa doesn’t know her name–only that Jackson says that Melissa is much older, fatter, and duller than his new girlfriend. She left the house crying.

After a while Melissa, exhausted, falls asleep. That’s when Lauren’s husband tells her that he thinks he knows who the other woman is: Sharon, the current manager the first of Lauren’s inns. He’s seen Sharon and Jackson together a few times, and though it was never anything overt, something about their interaction seemed inappropriate to him, and at least once the two parted hastily as soon as they noticed him.

The next morning, without consulting any of her partners, Lauren goes to the inn Sharon manages for a private meeting with her. “Quick question,” she says. “Are you having an affair with Jackson?”

Sharon hesitates, then says, “Yes I am. We’re in love.”

“Thanks for being honest,” Lauren says, handing over a check. “Here’s your pay for this month, plus two months’ severance. You’re fired.”

Sharon protests. This isn’t fair, she insists. She’s gotten glowing performance reviews for the last two years; the last time they spoke, Lauren called her the best manager the inn had ever had, including herself. Her affair with Jackson is a personal matter; it shouldn’t cost her her job.

Lauren isn’t having any of it. “Your job is to be my right arm,” she says. “I have to trust my right arm, and I don’t trust you any more. I certainly don’t like you. Get out.”

Is what Lauren did unethical in your view? Unwise? Why do feel as you do?

What state does this take place in?

I’m not Skald, but I don’t think that’s relevant. He’s not asking if it’s legal. He’s asking if it’s ethical or wise, which falls pretty squarely into the realm of opinion.

I just SAID I don’t know how to spell Connecticut. Why do you insist on exposing my ignorance?

Anyway, I didn’t ask if what Lauren did was LEGAL. An act may be legal without being ethical, and vice versa. For that matter, it can be both legal and ethical (or neither) without being a good business decision.

Whether or not you can get your ass sued for doing something directly pertains to the wisdom of doing it, wouldn’t you say?

It’s ethical. Sharon has shown herself to be untrustworthy and that is enough to get her fired.

Also, sleeping with the boss’ husband (and Melissa is her boss as she owns part of the company) is a stupid thing to do, and Lauren doesn’t seem like the type to hire or continue to employ stupid people.

It’s probably good business - when it comes out there will likely be a shitstorm and it’s better to nip those in the bud then let them affect the business.

Honestly, it’s probably ethical even if Melissa was unknown to Lauren and had no part of the business. Having an affair, whatever side of the marriage you’re on, is unethical, and I don’t see anything wrong with not wanting to employ unethical people.

My god, man, respect the wisecracks!

Never mind. Though the obvious answer to your question is Connecticut (which I still maintain has too many damn Cs in it), I have decided to answer anyway because it gives me the excuse to post Rory Gilmore cheesecake. (I was going to post a link to Liza Weil hopping and jiggling but I’m too lazy.)

Also, apropos of nothing, have you tried the Pineapple Cream Pie, Skald? It sounds intriguing but I think the texture would be odd due to the fibrous nature of the pineapple and the tartness of the pineapple would be weird with the topping. (But then, Lemon Merigue is fine, so what do I know)

It’s ethical. Not merely because of the trust issues which underpin an owner/manager relationship, but because the poor judgment displayed by Sharon dipping her quill in the company ink. Even if it’s illegal, it’s a wise move to make. In that case, the best tack for Lauren (Laura? I forget) to take is still to quickly build up whatever bare minimum evidence to legally fire her.

And before you start doing some turnabout shenangians, my answer is the same if the characters involved were all gender-switched Jedi Knights living in a polyamorous community of Hobbits.

Now when do I get my pie?

Unethical. She fired the woman without giving her a chance to tell her side of the story. Maybe the marriage wasn’t as happy as her friend let on, and maybe it was because of something the friend did. Maybe the boss should consider that a husband isn’t an object that can be “stolen” like a car, and that relationships change sometimes. She abused her power, in my opinion.

She did tell her side of the story. Her side is I’m sleeping with my boss’s husband. I see no ethical problem here.

I think Lauren’s husband should have kept his mouth shut. Once he opened it, I think Lauren should have kept her mouth shut. I think Sharon should have kept her mouth shut, except to say, “I beg your pardon?” (Oh, and to be fair, I think Jackson should have kept his mouth shut about his new girlfriend, although we only have Melissa’s word for what he said. If he wanted to leave her, he could have said something more tactful.)

Ethical and wise.

I wouldn’t want someone with that poor of judgment working for me in a management position.

She directly answered a question, but wasn’t allowed to elaborate. Frankly, she may have been in shock that

  1. Her boss thought it was any of her business, and
  2. Her boss canned her without a minute’s thought.

Hmmm… we have a couple of issues muddled together here. Lauren owns the company, Melissa is a co-owner, and Sharon is an employee. In addition, Lauren and Melissa are friends. Melissa as co-owner probably raises different questions than Melissa as just plain friend.

However, I think Lauren’s explanation of the trust relationship required between the owner and the manager would satisfy both the ethical and legal concerns. Sharon doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Why should Lauren’s husband (whose name is obviously Scott – by Athena, does no one love Gilmore Girls any more) keep his mouth shut? He doesn’t owe Sharon a thing, and he DOES owe Lauren something. They’re married; they’re allies in life. It was one thing to keep his mouth shut when he had no real evidence that Jackson was having an affair, but once he knew that he was, I think Lauren would reasonably expect him to share anything he knew on the subject. I would feel so obliged.

I feel obliged to point that that, while Sharon is participating in an affair, she herself is not the one cheating. Or, at least, there’s nothing in the OP to indicate that Sharon is married. She’s broken no vows, and I am not convinced that her willingness to abet another’s infidelity indicates that she’s likely to embezzle, discriminate racially, or otherwise abuse her position. If Lauren had learned that Sharon had been, say, stealing from her elderly parents, then clearly Sharon would be a risk not worth keeping, but being the other woman is a different matter.

I don’t do shenanigans. You’re confusing me with Evil!Skald, but I’m not wearing that hat right now. I can prove it logically. Anywho, I actually did consider making this an all-lesbian story, but decided not to because it would complicate the Lauren-Melissa part of it.

I doubt Lauren is going to find issues of incompetence to use as a bat to fire Melissa with; the OP says she only recently sang her praises. But does she actually needs grounds to fire Melissa other than the fact that Melissa just royally pissed her off? Is it your contention that Melissa is owed a job?

As for your pie: I am not your teleport service provider, and I have urged you ere this to use someone other than Quark for that service. I have no sympathy whatsodamnever.

You’re right that Lauren gave Sharon no opportunity to tell her side of the story, and it’s pretty clear that she, Lauren, had decided before the meeting that the only thing that mattered was the simple fact of the affair. I’m not convinced that Sharon is due that right. Why do you think she is?

Incidentally (and speaking as poster, not OP), I see nothing in the OP that comments on the happiness of Melissa & Jackson’s marriage, or that makes me think that Lauren is motivated by anything other than love of her friend and distaste for anyone who hurts her friend. She’s not going to care what Sharon’s side of the story is. It’s like my older brother said to some kid his age who had punched me when I was about 7: “You just hurt my little brother. Obviously I’m gonna kick your ass now. I don’t care why you did it.”

I’d say some thought went into it. Hours had passed, and Lauren had clearly decided that Sharon’s ass was grass if she was the other woman.

Unless the elaboration is that he raped her, I can’t think of a single thing she could add that makes Lauren’s decision wrong.

Totally ethical.

If she’ll screw (physically) her boss’s husband, she’ll screw (financially) her boss, her customers, and anyone else who comes along. Besides which, now that the husband has left, Sharon has incentive to quit and do some serious damage on the way out - steal customer lists, sabotage projects, spread lies - in order to cover her own feelings of guilt or shame, delay competition while she tries to set up her own business, or out of some misplaced sense of persecution.

Besides which, someone who has the chutzpah to say “that’s not fair; you can’t fire me for sleeping with your husband!” is not a person you want working in a job where they have to interact with other human beings at all.

It’s not only ethical, it’s absolutely necessary if Melissa wants to protect her business and her reputation.

What if the husband actively seduced her?

While it is generally considered a bad idea to dip the pen in company ink, it is hilariously bad to have an affair with the spouse of someone you work with. Doubly so to have an affair with the spouse of one of the minority owners of a closely held firm. The only way it gets stupider is for the affair to have been with Lauren’s husband.

This is one of those situations where being fired must be the expected outcome of the affair coming to light. You work where you work based on mutual agreement, which means shitting all over one of the parties responsible for agreeing to maintain the relationship is a bad idea.