Nepotism Can Present Legal Issues for Businesses

The recent departure of two employees from a Texas college has called the school’s hiring practices into question. Amarillo College dismissed an employee of Panhandle PBS, a television station in Amarillo, Texas, for violating the school’s nepotism policy. The CEO of Panhandle PBS, who is also the mother of the employee in question, resigned the same day. These events have brought attention to just how prevalent nepotism is. Labor and employment attorney Robert Boreanaz spoke to the Amarillo Globe-News about these nepotistic hiring practices and how they can negatively affect employee relations and morale. The full story is available on the Amarillo Globe-News website.

School has history of nepotism

The Amarillo Globe-News reports that on Friday, May 6, Amarillo College fired Panhandle PBS employee Natalie Jackson for violation of the school nepotism policy. Amarillo College’s Vice President of Communication and Marketing and the CEO of Panhandle PBS, Ellen Robertson Green, resigned the same day. In addition to holding these titles, Green is also Natalie Jackson’s mother. According to the Amarillo Globe-News, Amarillo College’s Head of Human Resources has reported at least five separate cases of nepotism following an investigation that revealed there are at least 120 relatives employed by the school, 37 of whom work in the same department as their relative. Officials at Amarillo College claim that the interpretation of the nepotism policy has changed. The Globe-News reports that the policy used to be interpreted as only forbidding people from having a direct supervisory relationship with their family members, but that the rule has now been expanded to include employees whose jobs are further removed.

Nepotism presents legal issues

Robert Boreanaz told the Amarillo Globe-News that there are risks to one organization hiring so many people who are related to each other. “When employers permit nepotism,” he said, “they dilute the effectiveness of supervision and of a consistent human resource policy.” Mr. Boreanaz explained that, in these situations, “you will always have a coworker who will feel or complain that he or she is not getting the same treatment as the employee who benefits from nepotism. This undermines the ability of a good human resource program to even-handedly administer policies and the general supervision of employees.” Mr. Boreanaz also told the Globe-News that nepotism can present employers with legal issues that can be difficult to defend. “Any time you have factors that come into play regarding either the hiring, discipline, or termination of an employee that is not related to merit—such as nepotism—you run the risk of legal claims being made against the employer for disparate treatment.”

About Robert L. Boreanaz

Mr. Boreanaz, a member of Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Labor and Employment Practice Area, focuses his on union-side labor law and plaintiff-side employment law. He has extensive trial experience, arguing before state, appellate, and federal courts.