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Terminated Because a Married Coworker Had a Crush On Me?


Business and Professional Relationships Networking and maintaining a positive environment in the work place is important! Surviving the 9-to-5 within.

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Old 16th May 2014, 6:57 PM   #1
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Terminated Because a Married Coworker Had a Crush On Me?

One of my superiors that I worked with closely every day became a good friend. There was absolutely no flirting, touching, or anything else that could be deemed inappropriate. We did carpool a few times when one of us was having car issues but this was normal and everyone in the company did this and it was usually male-female carpooling.

After maybe the fourth time we carpooled I was called into the HR's office and told that it was "inappropriate" for my friend and I to ride together and that there were rumors starting. I thought this was strange since there was nothing even remotely wrong or flirtatious about our conduct and neither of us had head any "rumors" about anything. We barely even talked to each other unless it was work related. Of course I thanked her for her time and concern and told her we would stop carpooling. I talked to some of my close friends in the company about it and they thought the HR manager was being ridiculous because they carpooled with married coworkers of the opposite sex and no one seemed to care.

At the end of the next week I was terminated. The HR manager and my supervisor were conveniently missing and they left the dirty work to the VP of the company. I asked him for the reason for my termination and he said I did an amazing job and was one of their best employees. He had no idea why and I would have to call and talk to the HR manager on another day. Then they offered me a very generous severance pay in return for my silence. No one that I worked with could make sense of my termination at all. I had a problem with the ethics of the company in general so I wasn't too upset about it.

About a week after that I spoke to an ex coworker that said my male friend had told someone else that he had a crush on me and was worried about it turning into something (which was news to me because I had less than zero interest in him). This got back to the HR manager and she made the decision to terminate me simply because someone else was attracted to me. Apparently this is completely legal. You can be fired because someone else's inappropriate feelings even if you don't encourage it at all or if it doesn't go far enough to be considered sexual harassment.

I don't need advice on this. This is over and done and I have a much better job now so they can suck it. I just wanted to share my cautionary tale. Don't crap where you eat and be careful around your coworkers. I've worked at other companies where this would never be considered an issue but there are some companies that will punish you for other people's stupidity.
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Old 16th May 2014, 7:33 PM   #2
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are you positive that this is completely legal? I'm not very knowledgeable about this sort of thing, but I've always heard of wrongful termination lawsuits. It's also suspicious to me that they offered you money in exchange for silence. If it was completely legal, why offer you money?

Maybe there's something going on that you're not entirely aware of.

Regardless, I'd make sure that there's absolutely nothing illegal about it. Sounds strange to me.
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Old 16th May 2014, 8:02 PM   #3
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Did you ask why weren't the other people fired who carpooled with each other as well? This makes no sense at all. Which state is this?

I agree people shouldn't s--- where they eat. I don't know why anyone would be stupid enough to get involved with someone they work with especially with the climate these days.
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Old 16th May 2014, 8:11 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by thelastunicorn View Post
my male friend had told someone else that he had a crush on me and was worried about it turning into something (which was news to me because I had less than zero interest in him). This got back to the HR manager and she made the decision to terminate me simply because someone else was attracted to me. Apparently this is completely legal. You can be fired because someone else's inappropriate feelings even if you don't encourage it at all or if it doesn't go far enough to be considered sexual harassment.
Yup you sure can (in the US anyway). Here is a case that made national headlines a couple years ago:

Iowa Woman Fired for Being Attractive Looks Back and Moves On - ABC News


It is absolutely horrible that SOMEONE ELSE'S DESIRES can get YOU fired. (I still can't believe it.) You have my sympathies, OP.
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Old 16th May 2014, 8:27 PM   #5
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It's completely legal in the US to be terminated with no explanation. Wrongful termination only works in specific scenarios like if there was some breach of contract or clear discrimination involved. It's something I think will be happening a lot more often as the white collar workforce becomes more diversified(growing number of female college grads).

I worked for a large, well-known advertising agency. Even though I couldn't win a case against them I'm sure they didn't want the bad publicity that would come from it so they preferred writing me a check. Since it was all of a sudden I took the money. Still had to pay my bills whether what happened was fair or not.

Thanks but I have moved onto a better job. What really sucked was not being able to give a reason for my termination during interviews without looking like I was the cause of some drama. Thankfully I found a way to navigate through those types of questions while remaining honest and it paid off.
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Old 16th May 2014, 9:05 PM   #6
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At the end of the next week I was terminated. The HR manager and my supervisor were conveniently missing and they left the dirty work to the VP of the company. I asked him for the reason for my termination and he said I did an amazing job and was one of their best employees. He had no idea why and I would have to call and talk to the HR manager on another day. Then they offered me a very generous severance pay in return for my silence. No one that I worked with could make sense of my termination at all. I had a problem with the ethics of the company in general so I wasn't too upset about it.
Yeah, that's shady. My last job was shady like that too. All of a sudden, without any hints or warning, I was terminated for no reason. I was just given the generic, "after taking in account company needs, suitability with the company and performance blah blah blah, we're letting you go". I did find out that they went bankrupt that same day, which was also the very last of my 90 day probation. I just came in to work one day and BAMB, my supervisor was like "oh lets touch base in the conference room" once he escorted me there, he left me with HR and she was the one who told me I was let go. It was a huge blow. And neither my dept manager or supervisor was there and she did not know any details about why I was terminated.

As for your coworkers, this is exactly why I do not like corporate environments. Too many personalities. You don't see this happen in small, close knit offices very often.
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Old 16th May 2014, 11:45 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by iouaname View Post
are you positive that this is completely legal? I'm not very knowledgeable about this sort of thing, but I've always heard of wrongful termination lawsuits. It's also suspicious to me that they offered you money in exchange for silence. If it was completely legal, why offer you money?

Maybe there's something going on that you're not entirely aware of.

Regardless, I'd make sure that there's absolutely nothing illegal about it. Sounds strange to me.
Probably because they don't want the company's name in the news.
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Old 19th May 2014, 8:38 PM   #8
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It's not legal in the U.S. but I think you're blaming the wrong people. Your little buddy probably decided the rumors were holding him back from "carpooling" another coworker or got him in trouble with his gf.

There is no doubt that extreme friendships and affairs in the office demoralize the other employees. They may rightfully assume that these ties will benefit the underling involved sometimes to their own detriment.

Glad you've moved on.
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Old 21st May 2014, 1:18 PM   #9
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Sounds so immature. Two colleagues carpooling and then everyone goes "...sitting in a tree, k.i.s.s.i.n.g".
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Old 21st May 2014, 2:02 PM   #10
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My guess is someone wanted you gone for a reason that they're not revealing to you at this time. Maybe not, but it just seems strange that this alone would be the reason for being tossed to the curb. In most cases, there's usually another reason, which probably has to do with someone somewhere within the ranks of the company (or perhaps peripherally, such as a jealous spouse) becoming either jealous of a perceived inappropriate relationship, or perhaps someone just using that as an excuse to deal with a potential office rival. The crappy part about it, as you've experienced, is you'll never know till much later. I suspect what might have happened is that, unbeknownst to you, your married coworker's spouse was insecure about what happened. This plus the combination of rumors - God only knows who started them and why - probably freaked out your coworker and he wanted a final solution to the 'problem.' Chickensh*t if you ask me.
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Old 21st May 2014, 8:21 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by thelastunicorn View Post
It's completely legal in the US to be terminated with no explanation. Wrongful termination only works in specific scenarios like if there was some breach of contract or clear discrimination involved. It's something I think will be happening a lot more often as the white collar workforce becomes more diversified(growing number of female college grads).

I worked for a large, well-known advertising agency. Even though I couldn't win a case against them I'm sure they didn't want the bad publicity that would come from it so they preferred writing me a check. Since it was all of a sudden I took the money. Still had to pay my bills whether what happened was fair or not.

Thanks but I have moved onto a better job. What really sucked was not being able to give a reason for my termination during interviews without looking like I was the cause of some drama. Thankfully I found a way to navigate through those types of questions while remaining honest and it paid off.
I'm stunned to hear that someone can be fired in the US because another colleague is attracted to them. How totally unfair? It's unbelievable that this is legal. It must be discriminatory because by sacking one colleague and not the other, one is blaming one more than the other. I'd be amazed if this could stand up in court. What kind of legal system does the US have?
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Old 22nd May 2014, 2:01 AM   #12
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****UPDATE****

Ran into the HR manager randomly today. She said that she had reasons to believe that he would potentially make unwanted advances outside of work and that it would've been a huge liability for the company. Terminating me was the lesser of two evils because we shared a client list and it would've been bad for the company to lose both of us at once so it had to be one of us(knowing how this company, this is logical and acceptable to me). If it weren't for the rumors going around the office then she would've stayed out of it.

Now that I think about it there were multiple things that happened that were suspicious:
  • Weird Mad Men Affair Joke His Wife Made to Him After Meeting Me(Pretty much told him that he better not be sleeping with me. Since I didn't find him attractive I thought this was hilarious and didn't give it a second thought)
  • Wife Always Giving Me Stink Eye(lol I assumed she didn't like me in general, not that she thought I was seducing her husband)
  • Offering to Help Me with Things Not Work Related & Outside of Work Anytime I Mentioned Them
  • Requesting That We Have Separate Offices Out of Nowhere(I think this is when his wife probably started getting on his case)
  • Him Coming into My Office Multiple Times a Day for No Reason at All and Oftentimes Singing to Me While I Work (even though he was the one that wanted separate offices and most of the time I didn't entertain conversations that weren't work related)
  • Constantly Singing My Praises to Upper Management as if I Was God's Gift
I don't romanticize things so I assumed we were just friends or he was being nice/playing around but when I put things into the context of this situation I was a bit naive(I was 23 at the time, sue me). At least I know now that I left with my reputation intact.
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Old 22nd May 2014, 2:18 AM   #13
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I admire your professionalism and I'm sorry this happened to you. I'm glad you have a better position.
Your story has helped me in a work situation.
Good luck and I hope you continue to be successful and never have to deal with anything like this again.
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Old 29th May 2014, 8:49 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by thelastunicorn View Post
****UPDATE****

Ran into the HR manager randomly today. She said that she had reasons to believe that he would potentially make unwanted advances outside of work and that it would've been a huge liability for the company. Terminating me was the lesser of two evils because we shared a client list and it would've been bad for the company to lose both of us at once so it had to be one of us(knowing how this company, this is logical and acceptable to me). If it weren't for the rumors going around the office then she would've stayed out of it.

Now that I think about it there were multiple things that happened that were suspicious:
  • Weird Mad Men Affair Joke His Wife Made to Him After Meeting Me(Pretty much told him that he better not be sleeping with me. Since I didn't find him attractive I thought this was hilarious and didn't give it a second thought)
  • Wife Always Giving Me Stink Eye(lol I assumed she didn't like me in general, not that she thought I was seducing her husband)
  • Offering to Help Me with Things Not Work Related & Outside of Work Anytime I Mentioned Them
  • Requesting That We Have Separate Offices Out of Nowhere(I think this is when his wife probably started getting on his case)
  • Him Coming into My Office Multiple Times a Day for No Reason at All and Oftentimes Singing to Me While I Work (even though he was the one that wanted separate offices and most of the time I didn't entertain conversations that weren't work related)
  • Constantly Singing My Praises to Upper Management as if I Was God's Gift
I don't romanticize things so I assumed we were just friends or he was being nice/playing around but when I put things into the context of this situation I was a bit naive(I was 23 at the time, sue me). At least I know now that I left with my reputation intact.
I'm sorry but there is absolutely nothing rational about them sacking you because he was likely to misbehave. That's the same kind of reasoning used in some primitive countries where women are cast out or even killed because a guy looked at them.
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Old 29th May 2014, 9:06 PM   #15
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Sorry to hear that you were the scape goat for company politics. In a study its been shown that companies will side with the offender due to protecting any liability or negligence lawsuits. Basicaly better to keep the prisoner in custody and leave the victim go.

Legally so long as they gave a vague answer for termination , its legal to fire. Such as: Our budget is being cut, or we have found an alternative cost saving machine that can do the work of your position.
Does it mean you can't have a civil suit against the person or company? Only a well qualified lawyer can aide you on that. I'd at least confer with one given your circumstance. Thank you for sharing this experience as unkind as the outcome was....
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