Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Answers to Your Nepotism Questions

This week I'm answering some questions that were posted on my old post, Nepotism Is Not Illegal.
My husband was passed over for a job he was qualified for because of nepotism. This in law enforcement in Utah, and he has been passed over twice based on the fact that my brother already works for the department. So now is there anything he can do? Or does he just have to roll over and take it?

Hi Ilse. It sounds like your husband is being subjected to an employer's own anti-nepotism policy. While nepotism is generally not illegal, some employers, especially government employers, have rules or even laws prohibiting hiring of relatives. That's because sometimes relatives take advantage and hire their no-account nephew, their drop-out daughter, or their burn-out uncle. Other employers have more specific anti-nepotism policies saying employees cannot hire or supervise their relatives.

Utah's Nepotism Act apparently makes it unlawful to appoint, supervise or make salary or performance recommendations for a relative. That means your brother can't make the decision to hire your husband, but it doesn't sound like there's a complete ban on hiring relatives. Maybe it's in the union contract or somewhere else. If the ban is simply that your brother can't supervise or hire your husband, then I'd suggest having your husband reapply and hand them a copy of the law showing that it doesn't prohibit the department from hiring him.

Here are some more state anti-nepotism laws.

What about nepotism in a nonprofit nursing home where 99% or more of their income is from Medicare/Medicaid?

Hi Steven. I haven't found any prohibition against a privately-owned nursing home hiring relatives of employees or owners, whether or not they have income from Medicare or Medicaid. If your employer wants to fire you so they can hire their son, daughter or wife, it's probably legal for them to do so.

I have a question regarding refusal to hire because of relation. I worked with my husband (when we were still dating) at his current employer. I submitted a resume because they stated I was not applying within the department so I was eligible. And I left on good terms. But now that my resume has been submitted, they say no because of the nepotism policy they have in effect. Can they deny my employment for this reason? AND if so, would they have been able to fire one of us after we got married while I was already employed there?

Hi Ed. Yes, an employer can deny you employment if it violates their anti-nepotism policy.  Some states, like Florida, have laws saying that employers can't discriminate based on marital status. However, I don't know of any law that prohibits an anti-nepotism policy. You can be fired for marrying a coworker, but can't be fired just because you got married in general. For employees being fired because they married a coworker, I usually look at that situation under sex discrimination laws. If only one of the two married partners is being terminated, it might be sex discrimination. Most employers tell the couple that they must pick which one is to leave, or both will be fired.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.