Reader: My fiancee has worked at a multinational company for nearly a decade. Her ex-husband previously worked at the same company but left a year before their divorce several years ago. The company has now rehired the ex-husband into the IT department, where most of his friends are, without first informing my fiancee. She only found out in passing from someone who assumed she had been told.
While they will not be working in the same department or see each other often, she was not thrilled that no one thought to consult her before extending the offer. Understanding that the ex-husband has some privacy rights, are there any laws or regulations that require notification of a former spouse if an offer of employment is being contemplated?
There is no history of abusive behavior or harassment, but I think it is completely classless of the ex-husband to even apply for a job knowing she still works there.
Karla: I gather this divorce was not of the “amicable” variety. Assuming, as you say, there’s no history of abuse or sign of harmful intentions on the ex’s part* — meaning they just don’t like each other — I don’t see how this is different from learning that any glass bowl from one’s past has become a colleague. Unpleasant, but tolerable as long as everyone plays nice in separate sandboxes.
It’s possible the hiring manager didn’t know about their relationship — or did know but didn’t want to give any impression that the ex’s marital status was a factor its hiring decision, which would be illegal. Either way, the company had no legal obligation to tell your fiancee anything.
It might seem fishy that the ex chose to apply to this particular employer — except that he has a history and friends there, too. And while it would have been sporting of him to give his ex-wife a heads-up, perhaps he feared she might say something to sabotage his candidacy.
In the end — again, precluding abuse or harassment — the ex has the right to earn a living where he likes. And your fiancee has the right to continue working there, or not, as she likes. For that matter, you could even apply for a job at this company — but let’s not make this weird.
*Adding this because it’s important: Anyone who genuinely fears being stalked or harassed at work by a current or former domestic partner — whether or not the partner works there — should notify management and HR. Many employers have adopted policies to help protect targets of domestic violence with job-protected leave, security protocols and other accommodations — but they can’t help if they don’t know about the threat. For more guidance and a list of states and localities that have adopted domestic violence laws that apply to the workplace, visit workplacefairness.org/domestic-violence-workplace.
Thanks to Carla Murphy of Duane Morris.
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