Ask Amy: Adultery gives law firm the shakes

February 17, 2013

DEAR AMY: I work for a law firm. A couple of years ago, it came to light that one of the partners was having an affair with a firm lawyer. Both are married, and he is her supervisor.

This situation has caused no end of problems in our office as this boss has continued to favor his paramour and has given her more power over others in the firm. Morale has deteriorated to the point where longtime employees are leaving in disgust, and the firm is actually splitting into two as a result of the fallout due to the affair.

Throughout the turmoil and stress, I have turned to my best friends to vent and to mourn the loss of co-workers who have quit due to this untenable situation (or who were forced out because they knew too much).

Without exception, my friends feel that this boss’s wife deserves to be told about her husband’s affair with his employee. The wife is a lovely person (also a lawyer). No one wants to see her or their children hurt. Are we being kind by keeping quiet, or are we enablers and cowards for not letting her know?

You have probably gotten good insight from all the people who have written to you over the years about similar situations. What do you think we should do? -- Torn Asunder

DEAR TORN: If this law partner has created professional mayhem in the law firm to the extent that the firm is no longer one firm but two, then surely the wife (and the other lawyer’s husband) must already know.

However, to answer your question, the balance of mail over the years on whether to tell the wronged spouse tips toward telling. I happen to disagree, unless the spouse is a close friend.

Rather than get involved in this personal problem, you should be concerned about the personnel problem. An employment lawyer (outside the firm) might advise former employees who have been forced out that they have a case of wrongful termination.

DEAR AMY: I work full time and have a great nanny. My nanny and another neighborhood mom, “Pam,” hang out with the kids. It’s great. Recently, another mom, “Wendy,” became part of their social circle.

A few weeks ago, things changed. Wendy’s child has a severe peanut allergy, and Pam had brought snacks containing peanuts to playdates. Wendy asked Pam to be respectful of her daughter’s allergy when they met at Wendy’s home. Pam arrived with peanut butter sandwiches, so Wendy told her that they could no longer have playdates because of this.

At a recent event I attended, the two moms did not speak, though my nanny spoke to both. Pam has now “unfriended” my nanny on Facebook (clearly a modern-day face slap).

Pam has extended a couple of invites to me, which puts me in a weird spot. My nanny is like a family member, and she is hurt and baffled by this mom’s actions.

Do I try to maintain a friendship with someone who has upset a person I like and care about? I am confused by her disregard for a child’s health, but since I’ve only heard this from one perspective, I’m not sure about my role. -- Bystander

DEAR BYSTANDER: This doesn’t involve you, unless “Pam” attempts to draw you in. If so, you should ask her directly, “I’ve become aware that there is tension between you and my child’s nanny. Would you tell me what’s going on there?”

I guarantee that her response will reveal a lot about what kind of person she is. She seems not to respect boundaries. Because of this you’ll know pretty quickly if she is someone with whom you feel comfortable building a friendship.

DEAR AMY: “Perplexed” asked for ideas about what activities to do with a grandmother with Alzheimer’s.

Often Alzheimer’s patients respond well to visual arts. Many art museums have special tours for people with dementia. -- Art Historian and Reader

DEAR HISTORIAN: This is a wonderful idea. An outing spent looking at paintings and photographs could stimulate conversations and be a potent experience to share. Thank you for the suggestion.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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