A recent New Brunswick case, in which the dismissal of an employee because he was romantically involved with a co-worker was found to be discrimination on the basis of marital status, illustrates the risks for employers in office romances.
After several months’ employment as a sales and marketing agent, the complainant began dating his office manager. When the couple moved in together soon afterwards, the employer became concerned that the relationship created serious business and financial risks because the office manager might disclose confidential salary and bonus information to her new partner. The employer decided to terminate the complainant without cause. He filed a complaint under New Brunswick’s Human Rights Act, claiming that he had been subject to discrimination on the basis of “marital status”.
The Board of Inquiry upheld the complaint, finding that the employees’ relationship was a form of marital status. The Board recognized that the employer had legitimate concerns about misuse of confidential information but concluded that these concerns could have been addressed short of the complainant’s dismissal. The employer was ordered to pay $2000 in damages for injury to the complainant’s dignity and self-respect and to provide him with a letter of apology. The employer was also required to participate in a one day training course on the duty to accommodate.