Love, Basketball, & the Celtics Scandal: Legal Advice for Consensual Sexual Workplace Relationships

Apr 20 2023

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda.

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh. What are we going to talk about today?

Goodbaum: I understand we are talking about love and basketball, which – in addition to being maybe the greatest movie of all time with Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan – is also a description of what has been going on lately at the Boston Celtics, with a little bit of a sex scandal. So, it’s got an employment law tie-in, and that is why we are here. Tell us about what is going on and what our viewers can learn from what’s happening with the Celtics.

DeMatteis: It sure does, and this is two of my worlds colliding. As you know, my husband and I are huge basketball fans, so I have basketball and I have some employment law stuff to talk about. This definitely makes me happy – although it might not have made a couple of people over at the Celtics organization happy. Here’s what happened.

The now-former head coach of the Boston Celtics, Ime Udoka, was having a relationship with a female staff member. We don’t entirely know whether or not this relationship was at one point consensual or not. It was originally reported that way, but then ultimately the female staff member accused Udoka of making unwanted advances and inappropriate comments, and the Celtics organization did a robust investigation and found violations of policy.

So, what does this mean for Connecticut employees? As we’ve spoken about in other videos – and we will continue to because this issue comes up a lot in the workplace – having even a consensual sexual relationship at work comes with its own share of issues. So, we know that the EEOC tells us this year, specifically, that the reports of workplace harassment claims continue to be on the rise. Remember, the EEOC is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Employees in Connecticut need to remember that, if you are in a consensual office romantic relationship, that carries some serious risks. Think about the power dynamics if you and the person you are having a consensual relationship with are at different levels of the hierarchy or there’s a power differential between the two of you. What if the relationship ends? What if somebody wants the relationship to end and someone doesn’t want the relationship to end? All of this plays out around the water cooler, and that can be a really, really serious problem.

So, if you are involved in a consensual workplace relationship, I have advice for you today. Look at the following things within your organization.

Number one, are there anti-fraternization policies? Are there policies that just prohibit you from engaging in these types of relationships at work? Are there anti-harassment policies that your relationship is, in fact, violating because you are entering into this type of relationship at work? And are there disclosure requirements?

This one I found pretty interesting, Josh. There are what is called “love contracts.” Love contracts at work. And what that is: it is a requirement that if you are involved in a consensual sexual relationship at work, you have an obligation to disclose it. In disclosing it at work, you will affirm that you are aware of company sexual harassment policies, you are aware of policies that require you to act a certain way and to remain professional during the course of your employment with a particular company, and you will attest in this love contract that there are consequences if you fall short of company expectations.

So, this could be playing with fire. Make sure you know what the requirements are of your job, make sure you know what the policies are in the place that you’re working, and don’t violate them because if you do, that could be reason for termination.

And as the Celtics scandal this year taught us, all is NOT fair in love and basketball.

Goodbaum: Oh! Good ending there! Thanks, everybody, for watching. Thanks, Amanda, for that great advice. Take care.

DeMatteis: Take care.

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