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What is the best way for other employees to deal with an RN supervisor dating another employee under his/her direct supervision?

Monday July 21, 2014
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

If a nurse is in a supervisory position, is it not illegal and unethical to date another employee under your direct supervision? There have been times when other employees have been making comments about one female supervisor to her boyfriend because they are not aware of their ongoing relationship. This is leading to retaliation in the form of bad evaluations, assignment and scheduling. What is the best way to approach this dangerous situation?

Patricia



Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Patricia,

The type of situation you describe in your workplace is difficult indeed. Any prohibition to this type of dating arrangement would be found in the institution's policies, or perhaps state law, if your workplace is a governmental entity that does not allow a state employee in a supervisory position to be related to, married to or to date a subordinate.

Of course, the conduct of the two involved is certainly not ethical nor professional, but absent some prohibition, it can be a difficult situation for colleagues.

You might want to consider discussing your concerns confidentially with the chief nursing officer in your facility, especially since the conduct results in disciplinary actions, poor evaluations and scheduling that is not done in good faith and with a good reason.

It may be, though, that a staff member or members may need to openly confront the conduct with those involved. However, if this route is taken, and even if the confidential discussion with the CNO is taken, you need to have solid proof that the comments made to the boyfriend resulted in an adverse employment result for staff members.

Another approach may be to report the supervisor to the state board of nursing if you can make the link between her behavior and the resulting employment detriment to staff. For example, it may be this type of conduct is considered unprofessional conduct or conduct that does not meet standards of practice. Again, though, your reporting must be done in good faith and be based on facts.

Cordially,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.