Dear Prudence

Help! One of My Employees Is Cheating On His Wife—While He’s on the Clock.

If this comes out, it will be a mess.

Man with glasses holding his hand up to his mouth.
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Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members. For this edition, Shannon Palus, a Slate senior editor, will be filling in as Prudie. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)

Q. Manager’s Mess: I am a manager at a bar, and I recently found out two of my staff are having an affair; I caught them on camera hooking up in the storage room. I would normally not care about this at all.

But he is a married man and his wife used to work at the bar herself (this is how they met) and is friendly and socially enmeshed with many of the staff. They are all pretty young and really tight and all party together and hang out. If this comes out it will be a mess. I caught them only last week but another employee texted me privately and told me she had suspicions so I am afraid it’s coming out one way or another with or without me. I would not involve myself in this but it happened ON THE CLOCK AT WORK. I liked his wife but she is not my good friend or anything I’m just trying to run a business.

So, what do I do? Show them the tape and ask them to stop? Fire him? Fire her? I’m pretty sure I have grounds for it as they were clocked in and supposed to be working not sneaking off to hook up and this is an “at will” employment state. Let them both go for “stealing” time? Stop scheduling them together? Say nothing and ignore it? I’ve had staff date and break up but this is my first messy cheating scandal on the clock and I’m just trying to mitigate the fallout.

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A: Don’t fire anyone. This is (mostly) none of your business. People are allowed to make questionable choices in their personal lives, like cheating on a spouse, and still hold down their jobs. You don’t even know that it was cheating! The married man could have cleared this hook-up with his wife.

If these employees are noticeably falling behind on their duties, you can bring up the fact that you expect them to get the dishes washed on their shift or that customers are being left to wait too long for their beer, in a conversation that does not mention why this might be the case. You could also say that you expect work breaks to be limited to a certain amount of time.

You don’t say that you were bothered by watching the footage specifically, but I think it’s totally reasonable that you wouldn’t want to stumble across employees hooking up in a storage room, whether on film or in real-time. I am also alarmed by the thought that your employees may not have known they were on camera. I would talk to your own boss, or the bar’s owner, about what to do next; creating good workplace conditions is not your responsibility alone. I think someone does need to make it extremely clear to your employee that they are being filmed in the storage room. Notification of filming at the workplace may or may not be the law in your state, but having a sign up or issuing a formal reminder seems like the right thing to do, and would also let these folks know that the storage room is not a great hook-up spot without you having to address them directly.

Now is also a great time to make sure everyone knows about the company’s sexual harassment policy, and any ground rules about employees dating. It doesn’t sound like anything nefarious is happening here, but it’s good to make sure everyone is on the same page about what’s allowed and what’s not.

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