Office romances are more accepted than ever in the workplace — except at the very top.
While studies show that more co-workers are mixing business and pleasure, companies are increasingly taking a zero tolerance approach to any high-level hanky-panky for fear of legal retaliation, damage to office morale and other problems.
Just this week, Lincoln Center confirmed it had booted Jed Bernstein as president after an anonymous complaint revealed he had dated and twice promoted an underling. It didn’t matter that his sexual relationship with the woman was consensual, both parties were single and that the center determined the female staffer deserved the latest promotion that she had received from Bernstein.
Bernstein was done in by factors that employment attorney Kathleen Peratis considers common to C-suite exits over intimate relationships: an explicit policy against office flings, a whistleblower about the affair and political opposition before the executive’s sexual peccadillos are even disclosed.
“CEOs who end up resigning or being fired in these cases tend to be slightly damaged in one way or another,” Peratis, a partner at Outten & Golden, told The Post. “The office relationship often serves as the last straw for an executive’s enemies to move in a direction they already want to go.”
In the Lincoln Center case, Bernstein violated the institution’s policy about senior management dating subordinates. He also allowed an anonymous whistleblower to amass enough information to force an investigation.
“These cases are always a little different,” Peratis said. “Sometimes the executive will have offended the wrong person. Sometimes the board doesn’t like where the company’s heading. And sometimes an affair is used as an excuse to retire an executive who’s old.”
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