terminated for ending an affair with boss

My wife just informed me of an affair she was having with her boss, the owner of a school/camp.

It lasted about a year and turned sexual about 2 months ago.

My wife broke down and ended it recently. The boss and his wife were upset.

She was forced to leave a job she loved and a great salary and benefits.

Does she have a financial claim for her termination?

Tim

1 answer  |  asked Aug 17, 2006 6:27 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
Breaking up with the Boss

There is this interesting case that went through New York State courts. It involved a Penthouse playmate. The boss would have her do favors for particularly important business associates. For the longest time, she had no problems doing these favors, but at some point, she changed her mind. The boss didn't like this, and started to give her a hard time in lots of ways. What he started to do definitely started to hurt her in the pocketbook. She sued claiming sexual harassment. Believe it or not, the courts didn't have a hard time accepting her claim.

Although technically out of favor now, at one time there were said to be two types of sexual harassment claims. One is hostile environment. THe other was called quid pro quo, which essentially means something for something. The case involving the playmate was a quid pro quo case. That is, the boss granted favors to his playmates if they granted sex to, in that case, business associates. It could have just as well been the boss himself (or herself).

Now, your fact pattern raises another important issue: constructive discharge. Very often in discrimination cases, something happens, and the job enivironment becomes very difficult, so difficult that the employee feels she has to leave. If the situation is bad enough, a court may consider the situation to be the same as firing the employee, and will treat it the same.

However, constructive discharge is very hard to prove. It involves a very high level of proof.

Now, a situation may not rise to the level of constructive discharge. That does not mean that an employee does not have a claim. It only means that the employee may not be able to get compensated for loss stemming from leaving the job. The employee may still be able to get compensated for what led to the employee leaving the job.

Economics play an important part in deciding whether an employee should take a case into litigation. Although there are certainly exceptions, generally speaking, a termination case is economically more valuable than a harassment case.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Aug 22, 2006 09:00 AM [EST]

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