Wait, It's Not OK To Have Sex With Your Employees?

gary friedmanGary Friedman.

Photo: YouTube

The highly visible CEO of Restoration Hardware has apparently been ousted after an inquiry into a relationship he is having with a former employee.The CEO is divorced. And, according to the former employee, the relationship is consensual.

(The inquiry apparently started after the ex-boyfriend of the former employee complained to the board.)

Now, there’s probably something more going on here than has been reported–right?

Wouldn’t there have to be?

After we published this story last night, I left a comment saying I was confused about why the CEO had to be ousted, given that the CEO is divorced and the employee he is having a relationship with (it’s ongoing) is no longer at the company.

Some of our readers responded by saying that of course this was grounds for dismissal, because of the “power dynamic” and so forth.

To which I have a response and a follow-up question.

First, I agree it is generally a terrible idea to have sex with your employees. It exposes you to all sorts of potential litigation, sexual harassment charges, wrongful termination suits, scandals, and so forth, and it destroys morale at the company. (“Oh, that’s how you get ahead here?”)

So I certainly agree that having relationships with employees should be avoided at great cost.


Plenty of very successful relationships have been started in the workplace.

And if the relationship is consensual and the issue is resolved by one of the employees leaving the workplace, as appears to have happened in this case, is that really an ethical or rule violation?

If it isn’t, should it be?

In other words, should it be explicitly against corporate rules to have sex with employees?

And, if so, should the rules only be one-way–boss to subordinate–or two-way? (i.e., should both employees get canned for having a sexual relationship?)

(Again, I think it’s very dangerous and potentially destructive to get into workplace relationships. But that’s different than thinking they should be completely against corporate rules. But I’m genuinely curious. What do you think?)

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