Office Romance 101

Romantic relationships in the workplace can be complicated. Consider this case.

Rob, an elected county constitutional officer who is widely regarded as bringing expertise and competence to his office, and Carolyn, his human resources director, has had an on-and-off romantic relationship that suddenly became newsworthy when Carolyn filed an EEOC complaint against Rob charging sexual harassment. She claims that he emailed her pornographic images, links to porn sites, and in conversation asked for sexual advances that she rejected. Rob’s wife discovered the relationship and insisted that he move Carolyn to a suburban office, which he did.

Some background—Rob and Carolyn had been dating for years when both were single. When they broke up, Rob started dating his current wife. He hired Carolyn, with whom he had worked with at a local bank before he was elected to office, as a training technician in the agency. She received a series of promotions afterward, ultimately overseeing human resources and community services.

In response to Carolyn’s complaint, Rob admits that he had sent the pornographic emails, and it was a personal mistake for him to be involved with a woman he once dated in a consensual and mutual relationship.  Rob contends the whole matter is private and has nothing to do with his competence in conducting the work of his office.


  1. If you were a member of the EEOC deliberation body, would you find “for or against” Carolyn’s complaint?
  2. If you were Rob and the EEOC rules in your favor (i.e., dismisses the complaint), would you fire Carolyn?
  3. If you were Carolyn and the EEOC dismisses the complaint and Rob fires you, would you bring a lawsuit?
  4. If you were Rob’s wife, what would you do?
  5. If you were a voter, what would you do if Rob stands for reelection?

This case is based on a true story.  If you want to find some answers to these questions, see the Tampa Bay Times, May 24 & 25, 2012. Also visit The answers may surprise you.




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