Employers are generally not supposed to concern themselves with the legal activities of employees after work hours. For example, employees are allowed to drink, smoke, or gamble (where it is legal) during off-hours. Furthermore, employees are allowed to join whatever church, temple, or other organization they choose, and are allowed to complain about their jobs to others as long as no confidential information is revealed. In many states, including Oregon, employees may express themselves on their personal social media profiles and employers may not request access to their accounts.
The Love Clause
Employment law experts around the country are talking about a contract recently signed between Alabama State University and its newest president, Gwendolyn Boyd. Boyd is a 58 year-old African-American female who is now set to make $300,000 per year at the university. However, people are not discussing her pay, gender, or race. Instead, they are discussing a clause of her contract, referred to as the “love clause,” that reads as follows:
“So long as Dr. Boyd is president and a single person, she shall not be allowed to cohabitate in the president’s residence with any person with whom she has a romantic relation.”
An employee’s love life is another personal concern that is usually off limits for employers. Therefore, many eyebrows have raised at the university’s blatant control over its new president’s love life. In Oregon and many other states, the contract clause would likely constitute unlawful discrimination, as such states have laws prohibiting an employer from discriminating against or treating an employee differently because of their marital status. Because the clause exists because Boyd is a “single person,” she would have different limitations than a married president, who would clearly be allowed to have a spouse live in the president’s residence. However, no law involving marital status exists on the federal level, and Alabama does not have such protections at the state level, either. For this reason, the clause does not technically violate any employment laws applicable to the university.
Other legal experts have raised concerns that the contract violates Boyd’s constitutional right to privacy, which includes the right to have intimate relationships. Others wonder how the university will enforce such a clause. For instance, if Boyd has overnight guests, how will the university know whether romantic relations occur or not? As for Boyd herself, she has stated that she was fully aware of the love clause and chose to sign the contract, as is. However, many people are worried that this may set a new standard for employers trying to encroach on employees’ personal lives in contracts.
If you believe your employer has crossed the line and violated your rights in any way, please contact the experienced employment attorneys at HKM today for help.