Just a reminder this is not the HR function. This is about human resources actions done without thought. This happens in a small business on occasion and especially if a husband and wife work in the business together.
A chiropractor hired a woman to be a massage therapist for his chiropractic practice. She apparently did good work, but she ran afoul of the wife, who worked for the practice. The wife did not like the new employee because she was “too cute” and she suspected that she was after the husband. The wife, a former Playboy playmate, apparently was insecure and one evening went on an email tirade telling the employee to stay away from her husband. The next day the employee received an email from her boss telling her she was fired.
As you can imagine, the employee was not happy and got an attorney to file a lawsuit claiming gender discrimination under New York City and State laws and for defamation. Although originally dismissed by a lower court an appeals court found that there was justification to let the case continue. According to attorney Barbara Hoey “The court found that there was no allegation that Plaintiff E….. has ever behaved inappropriately or that she had any affair with Dr. N. Thus, it was only her gender that was the basis for the termination.” This was enough evidence to let the case proceed.
The lesson on what was bad HR
The bad HR in this was allowing an employee to be fired on baseless jealousy. Granted in an employment-at-will state that could be allowed it is still bad practice. You are always better off having performance based reasons. Unfounded jealousy is not performance based.
Make sure that family members are aware of the consequences of their actions. Even if the boss is making sound decisions those decisions can be undermined by poor actions on the part of family members in the business. In this case it is the same as the responsibility held in the case of a supervisor.
My last statement may be controversial, but I think working with your spouse is a bad idea. My experience is that seldom can spouse divorce work and personal life thoroughly enough to make the business safe from divided decisions. Something will suffer often both the business and the personal life. It is bound to lead to more Stupid HR.