Personal Relationships in the Workplace 

This is a stand-alone document, unaccompanied by a model policy, designed to explore the primary issues surrounding personal relationships within the workplace, specifically nepotism and romantic relationships. Following extensive research, the National Law Enforcement Policy Center concluded that a discussion of the issues surrounding this important topic would be more beneficial than development of a model policy, given opposing professional views on basic considerations surrounding this topic. This document isolates and examines the predominant issue areas with the intention of providing law enforcement executives with essential information to make informed decisions—whether that is to implement a policy or to reject or defer decision making on this matter.

Among the more challenging personnel problems faced by law enforcement administrators is the difficulty created by certain personal relationships existing or developing among employees of their agencies. These issues are not new, nor are they limited to law enforcement agencies. The hiring of relatives and romantic involvement among employees has been faced by organizations in both the public and private sector for decades. However, decisive solutions to these matters have been elusive and changes in social values and broadened hiring practices enhance the complexity of the problem. The increased emphasis on employee legal rights often places administrators in the awkward position of balancing those rights against the need to ensure fairness and impartiality in personnel management. It has become very difficult for departments to draft policies and regulations that are sufficiently specific to address these problems effectively and are able to withstand the scrutiny of the courts during subsequent litigation.

This paper examines such personal relationships, their effects upon a department, and the legal issues they raise, so that managers may better understand the challenges presented and the approaches that may be taken.

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