I’m furious that my boss refused to interview my partner

A reader writes:

My company encourages candidate referrals. I referred my domestic partner to a full-time, permanent position on my team. There wouldn’t be a conflict of interest since i would not be his supervisor. We would have the same supervisor.

His skills and experience were a great match and he was contacted by a recruiter right away. His resume was forwarded to the hiring manager, who is my supervisor.

A few days later he was contacted by the recruiter, who advised that he was no longer under consideration for the job due to us living in the same house. He was told that we would not be allowed to work under the same supervisor.

I know my company has hired contingent employees who also were family members of my coworkers and had the same supervisor. I don’t know if they all lived under the same house.

The company’s policy for employment of relatives ironically starts with being committed to having a policy of hiring based solely on qualifications and merit. My SO would have met these qualifications, but seems to have been discriminated against when the hiring manager determined we lived together. Does this sound accurate?

How do I handle working with my supervisor knowing how she handled my referral? Are there legal ramifications or steps we can take to address this? If exceptions were made for my coworkers, what can I do about my situation? Is this considered an ethical violation?

I don’t want to put my job in jeopardy, but I don’t want to be a pushover. My SO is also angry at my company for their lame excuses for not even interviewing him.

I now feel stuck between continuing to work for someone who did this to me and keeping my home life stable.

Whoa, no.

Your manager is under no obligation to interview or hire your partner and has every right to decide she doesn’t want to manage partners of existing employees.

There is no ethical violation here. There is no legal recourse. There’s nothing to be a pushover about. Your manager didn’t do anything wrong.

Your reaction to a very routine and understandable business decision is strangely adversarial, and I strongly, strongly encourage you to take a step back and rethink your response.

There are lots of good reasons why a manager might choose not to consider hiring partners of current employers: Will they be able to work on projects together professionally? Will they act in a way that makes others uncomfortable? Will they cause drama or tension if they have a fight or break up? Will they fight the other person’s battles for them? (For example, if one of them doesn’t get along with their boss, will that impact the other person’s relationship with the boss?) What happens if one half of a couple gets fired or is treated in a way they feel is unfair? Does that not impact the morale and working relationships of the other person?

Your answer to that might be that the two of you are scrupulously professional and none of this would ever be an issue, but lots of people think that and it ends up not being the case … and regardless, your manager has no guarantee of it. It’s entirely reasonable for her to simply prefer not to risk it.

(Of course, two people on a team might start dating after they’re already been hired and managers just need to deal with that, assuming neither is in the other’s chain of command. But there are plenty of good reasons not to proactively bring it on to a team when given the choice.)

Sometimes a manager might be prefer not to hire partners but still be willing to consider it in specific circumstances — like for a hard-to-fill role without a lot of competitive candidates. But if your manager has plenty of other candidates she’d be happy to hire, it’s an easy call to say no to introducing the risk of drama on her team.

And that’s her prerogative.

There’s one other possibility here, which I’m sorry to have to raise: Based on the aggressively adversarial stance you took in your letter, I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss already sees you as something of a problem. I can tell you that even if I were open to considering hiring an employee’s partner, I absolutely would not consider it for someone who I already felt was a problem — since that significantly increases the chances of all the potential issues above. It’s possible that the answer to why your boss won’t consider your partner is right there in your letter.

Your manager didn’t do anything wrong here. Let go of the resentment and move on.

{ 473 comments… read them below }

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Agreed. That OP would jump straight from their boss not interviewing their partner to “should I quit?” means the boss absolutely made the right call.
        If OP got this upset over their boss simply chosing not to interview him, how much more upset would she be if he was interviewed, but wasn’t hired? Or if he were reprimanded at work? Or if he were passed over for a promotion? Or if he were let go? Or even just if the boss chose someone else’s ideas over his?
        This is a big overreaction. And it definitely indicates that OP should never consider working with a significant other in any business capacity, because they cannot maintain their professionalism in the process.
        Being loyal to your SO is good, yes. But this is taking it too far.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreeing as well. The anger and “I know better than my boss” pouring out of the letter gave me some serious pause.

      OP, please let go of the anger. Your boss has the right to interview whoever they wish – and hire the person they see as the best fit for the position. Jobs and fit can frequently be about things that are more than just the “technical skills” of the job – that’s what a staggering number of the letters to Alison stem from – those interpersonal skills.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        This stood out to me:

        “I now feel stuck between continuing to work for someone who did this to me and keeping my home life stable.”

        To the OP: I feel worried that your home life would become unstable because your partner did not get a job where you work. Do you feel pressured to quit or pressure to be angry at your boss on behalf of our partner? When you say your boss “did this to me” – do you mean they didn’t take your recommendation, or do you mean something more ominous: that they have made your home life difficult?

        I get the general impression of someone under quite a lot of stress. I don’t know the source of that stress, and I don’t want you to feel attacked, but sometimes when things are really tough, people can get stuck on magic solutions (my company hires my partner and now everything is good!) or can lash out in strange directions (my boss did this to me!). These are really tough times. When you are in survival mode, it can be hard to see clearly. Be kind to yourself. Talk to someone outside the situation if you can.

        1. AKchic*

          That stuck out for me, too.

          I was in an abusive marriage, and if I had recommended my then-husband to a position (which, to be very honest, wouldn’t have happened because he would *never* have taken a position under CEO and any pay less than 6 figures, which he was absolutely unqualified for, but that’s the narcissist in him and one of the many ways he justified *not* working while I worked low-pay jobs while we were on public assistance) he would have been furious to not be hired on the spot and would have pushed and pushed until I was angry on his behalf (or at least feigned the same indignant outrage) and would have made my life miserable until I gave the boss “a piece of my (read: his opinions through my voice) mind” and either changed my boss’s mind, got myself fired, or left the job all together. It was all a part of his sabotage routine. I wasn’t allowed to be comfortable or successful in a workplace where he didn’t have eyes/ears at all times.
          I know that my own personal experiences are coloring my perceptions, but I do have to wonder if the anger is misplaced, or if the sense of urgency is less because of the boss’s decision and more because the LW wants the partner working (in general) and is disproportionally taking that anger out on the hiring manager.

              1. Joan Rivers*

                Yes. It also stood out to me that OP says they’ve hired others’ SOs but “doesn’t know” if they lived together. Why get so upset but brush aside getting any FACTS?

                To go to “maybe I’ll just quit” and asking about the legality of this? —
                w/o even knowing relevant facts? That makes me think s/he is:

                1) fed up w/the job and happy to find a reason to bail
                2) a hothead

                Because there are no other loose ends here I can speculate about.
                Very interesting letter, the way the couple are said to be so ALIGNED here in their outrage. There’s a real lack of insight going on.

                1. mlk*

                  OP said “family members” not significant others/partners. That could include siblings, cousins, etc. all somewhat more likely to be not living in the same household.

                2. Womanaroundtown*

                  I’d add: 3) encouraged/manipulated by partner to be upset/push this at work. As others noted, it really struck me as a situation in which the partner who wasn’t considered was driving the reaction.

                3. selena*

                  That’s also how i read it. And in that case i think there would be way less risk of a ‘messy breakup’, and less risk in general of family-problems spilling out into the workplace.

                  And since they are contingent it would be easy to get rid of them if an issue were to arise. Whereas husband was to be permanent&fulltime.

                  So OP is comparing apples and oranjes: some of her colleages did get an acquaintance in the door, but these situations are very different from her own.

          1. Idril Celebrindal*

            Yep, this.

            My soon-to-be ex-husband did this kind of thing with my family to alienate me from them. He’d get furious about some perceived slight and if I didn’t get equally as furious or offered any suggestion that he wasn’t 100% in the right, I was “siding with the enemy” and “disrespectful and unloving” and “deserved” any anger he wanted to throw at me.

            OP, if any of this is resonating with you, please listen to the little voice in the back of your head saying that this isn’t healthy or good, and please face the source of the anger and work through it before it destroys your job. Interfering with your job is a hugely scary thing for your partner to be doing, because if they are abusive, this interferes with your ability to get out. I’m not saying this is what is happening, but please be really sure it isn’t before dismissing what commenters are saying here.

            1. TL -*

              This is literally playing out with a friend of mine right now – her (abusive) partner is furious and upset over a non-slight, non-event and my friend is mirroring her reaction and there’s not really anything we can do about it.

              OP, if you feel your partner is so upset by this that he wants you to quit your job, what he’s really saying is that your financial stability and your career is less important than what is, for him, nothing more than a minor ego-bruising. Please reflect on that carefully.

              1. Idril Celebrindal*

                I’m sorry you and your friend are going through this right now. It’s awful and unfair for both of you. If I can offer some encouragement, the people who continued to be quietly there for me in whatever way they were able, without pushing their opinion or trying to force me into any particular behavior, were the ones I knew I could go to when I did make the choice to get out. So, even though it may feel like you aren’t able to do anything, your actions now are planting the seeds for her to have a support system she can turn to down the road.

            2. LunaLena*

              Almost word-for-word, this happened to me with an abusive ex as well! If I wasn’t 100% in agreement with every indignation or perceived slight, it was “why are you hurting me like this” and “look how mad you’re making me” until I felt like I was constantly walking through a minefield. Also “your family/friends doesn’t love you like I do, so you should be siding with me. I’m the one who’s really looking out for you.” Giving in to his demands didn’t make the mines go away, it just created more of them. Eventually I couldn’t even talk about “so this happened at work today,” because it was a betrayal that I could have fun without him.

              Years after I got out of that relationship, I learned that this is a pretty typical abuser’s playbook. They try to create an “us against the world” mentality so you feel obligated to stay with them. As Idril Celebrindal said, not saying this is necessarily what is happening, but that sentence about feeling “stuck” definitely sounded a warning bell. Being mad at your boss or having your partner be mad at you shouldn’t be your only two options.

            3. AKchic*

              “siding with the enemy” was exactly how my ex-husband used to phrase it. And if I was “siding with the enemy”, then obviously, I was the enemy too, and we all deserved whatever “justice” he chose to mete out.
              Anything he did when I left was considered “rightful punishment” on his part. I had to “suffer” for my “disobedience” and “humiliating [him]” because I “ruined [his] life”. He was 14 years older than me (I was 19 when I left him). It’s been nearly 18 years since I left. He still doesn’t work. He hasn’t paid more than $100 in child support (and all of that was unwilling, he quit as soon as money was taken from him). We don’t discuss his criminal history or the women in and out of his life in front of my kids (including the son I had by him). He never changed.

          2. Elle by the sea*

            I’m sorry that it happened to you. To me, there is nothing in this letter that suggests an abusive relationship. It’s normal to feel this way for a while – I’m sure I would too if I wasn’t completely averse to working on the same team with my SO exactly for these reasons. Yes, it’s an overreaction but it’s extremely common. And as long as OP and their partner don’t chew on it for weeks, months or years and OP doesn’t destroy their career or relationship over it, it should be fine. Just vent and let go.

            1. Idril Celebrindal*

              Elle, I would say that there isn’t anything in the letter that makes abuse certain, but there are a number of red flags that make it at least a definite possibility. Yes, there could be another cause, but taking the letter as a whole, it looks enough like other situations that have been abusive that it is worth raising so that the OP can be aware and consider on their own whether it’s there or not.

              1. Cassidy*

                But Elle makes an excellent point, which is, why speculate? Is is so hard to just stick within the confines of the letter?

                “…taking the letter as a whole, it looks enough like other situations that have been abusive that it is worth raising”?

                What in the letter suggests the possibility of abuse? Can it not just be that the OP is, as Alison noted, adversarial, because that’s actually suggested by the letter writer’s tone? Good grief. I guess next time I get sore at my boss I’ll have to note whether my SO is abusing me.

                Honestly, so many ridiculous rabbit holes in these forums …

                1. Zillah*

                  I agree that there’s a limit to what possibilities it’s helpful to raise, but I also think it’s worth noting that we’ve definitely had LWs come back and say “you guys were right about this, thanks.” Saying “this must be the case” isn’t warranted, but i’m not sure why raising it as a possibility is so terrible. it’s one of the places my mind went, too.

            2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              It’s a normal and common to feel this way and stew over it, and yes, it’s an over-reaction.

              There is a problem, thought, if the over-reaction gets in the way of OP being able to understand (but not necessarily agree with) the bigger picture, or if OP can’t actually intuit why working with her SO could be an issue or perceived as such.

            3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

              I agree that we just don’t know enough about the OP or their situation. I do think there are red flags in the letter about the relationship, and I still think it is worth gently posing the question – but you are right that we don’t really know what is going on.

              I very much get the feel from the letter, however, that the OP is in a bad place – everything is salvation or catastrophe, everything is black and white – the boss is either a loyal ally who would save them or a treacherous enemy who has to be exposed and sued, the failure of their partner to land an interview at one place means that everything is ruined, the interview would have fixed everything… things are clearly bad for the LW right now, but it is hard to know why. Yes, the letter comes off as antagonistic, but it can be like that sometimes when things are really hard and you are trying to find some daylight.

            4. Batgirl*

              I didn’t pick up either but others with experience are clearly sensing a vibe. Upon rereading “keeping home life stable” is super worrying phrasing.

            5. Flossie Bobbsey*

              I have no firsthand experience with abuse myself, yet I picked up on exactly what HarvestKaleSlaw, AKchic, and others did with the line “keeping my home life stable,” in conjunction with the description of OP’s partner being “angry,” as opposed to just disappointed or some other more proportionate reaction. They phrased their intuition much better than I could have, based on their experiences. I don’t think it’s fair to say that just because *you* didn’t have the same reaction, the other commenters are addressing something beyond what’s in the letter. The signs they’re talking about are right there in plain English.

            6. Sweet Christmas*

              Actually, I had the same vibes from this post. I thought, “this is someone either very angry, or very panicked.”

          3. Koalafied*

            I parsed that as another way of saying “between continuing to work here and quitting” with the loss of her job being a major disruption to home stability.

            1. I'm Not Phyllis*

              This is how I read it as well, though the other reasons are certainly valid possibilities!

          4. lailaaaaah*

            Oh boy, were we with the same person? Because my ex was SO UPSET at the idea of getting an entry level job, and would take any perceived ‘slight’ against either of us as a world-ending catastrophe that they simply would not stop talking about. It was nightmarish, and I didn’t fully realise the extent of how bad it was (or that it was bad at all) until the relationship fell apart.

        2. KHB*

          Me too. It sounds like OP feels a strong loyalty to her SO and might not be open to hearing this right now, but I’ll say it anyway: If your SO is destabilizing your home life over this, or taking your boss’s decision not to interview him out on you, that’s not normal, and it’s not healthy. You don’t owe it to your partner to fight his career battles for him (at least, not like this), and you deserve better than a partner who would ask that of you.

          1. Let's Just Say*

            This. Not jumping to conclusions, but I agree that line in the letter was unsettling.

            It’s also possible that LW’s partner is unemployed, they’re both under a lot of stress, and this job would have been a huge financial boon. It’s hard not to feel resentful at a lost opportunity, especially if the partner is qualified for the job. But LW is approaching this way too aggressively, and it could impact their own standing at work.

            1. Shakti*

              That’s the direction I thought about it from! Like the thought it was a sure thing and were frustrated in a bad economy and the partner was unemployed which is really stressful. Also they possibly have some emotional regulation issues? They seem very angry and upset and I kind of got a resentful of their job vibe

          2. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. A business decision can be a disappointment but it shouldn’t unhinge someone’s whole home life. I think OP and their spouse need to take a step back and evaluate what the real issue is here, and what appropriate steps they can take now. IMO, I think he just needs to go back to the recruiter and try to get a different job. We have family members working here, but not in the same team. It’s forbidden, as is being in the same chain of command.

            If money is an issue for OP’s household, the last thing they should do is behave unprofessionally and risk their own job.

          3. Cassidy*

            >If your SO is destabilizing your home life over this, or taking your boss’s decision not to interview him out on you, that’s not normal, and it’s not healthy. You don’t owe it to your partner to fight his career battles for him (at least, not like this), and you deserve better than a partner who would ask that of you.

            Why is this even brought up when nothing in the letter suggests the need for it? Can people not just focus on what’s in the letter?

            1. Former Employee*

              “I now feel stuck between continuing to work for someone who did this to me and keeping my home life stable.”

              It’s in the letter.

              1. who bot*

                Yeah – I read this line as being about financial stability (i.e. “I want to quit, but I’m worried about losing my income”) but I think people are making a reasonable interpretation here.

                I also just think it’s generally reasonable to say, “this letter reminds me of my own experience, and what was going on there was X.”

        3. Mother of Cats*

          That jumped out at me, too, but I read it more as not wanting to keep working for their boss but knowing that losing (or quitting) their job would create instability at home (presumably financial). Regardless, the “did this to me” line is concerning – it seems the LW sees declining to interview their partner as an attack or a slight against them when it was just a business decision the boss was 100% entitled to make. LW might want to take a step back and think about whether they take other things personally when there’s no reason to. Not only can it create needless conflict, it’s a form of negative self-talk that can create a lot of anger and stress in the person who does it.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            Agree. If OP is talking about quitting I’d assume money isn’t a looming issue. It sounds more like ego. But talk about “going off half-cocked” to consider quitting when OP doesn’t even know the details about couples who HAVE worked together.

            My guess is EGO is at play here.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah. Even if the company has hired family members before, it doesn’t sound like they’re couples who live under the same roof, or at least the LW doesn’t know of any certain cases.

            2. lailaaaaah*

              I mean, I definitely know people who were/are in precarious financial situations who would at least think about quitting if they felt slighted, or pressuring their partner into quitting. Sometimes money comes after ego or power issues (it definitely did with my ex).

          2. Salsa Verde*

            That was the line that jumped out at me. The boss isn’t not hiring the partner “at” anyone, the boss is just trying to hire the best person for the job.

        4. Managerrrr*

          I agree with this. OP, I hope the source of your panic/anger is not because your partner is blaming you. It also sounds to me like the two of you were really set on working together, maybe got yourselves really excited about it, and this was a huge disappointment. I hope that is coming from a good place, but either way, you do need to let it go.

          On a personal note, I would never, ever want to work at the same place as my husband, let alone the same department. I need my space and some independence from the relationship, and I would feel weirdly self-conscious about what others thought. Working with a loved one sounds great on the surface but doesn’t always go well. At a former company, I recommended my brother for a job in the same department as me. Our manager thought I was awesome, and seemed massively unimpressed with my brother from day one. So the great opportunity for me ended up being a daily struggle for my brother that ultimately ended with him being laid off. I think my manager hired him for fear that I would leave if he didn’t (which couldn’t have been further from the truth; I would have much preferred he not hire him if he wasn’t crazy about him). That was really difficult to navigate and I felt horrible for my brother. Add to that the stupid jokes people make about a relative working with you – it’s constant and annoying. I have since sworn not to recommend friends or relatives for jobs where I work. It doesn’t feel like it now, but you might have really dodged a bullet.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I also wouldn’t want to work with my husband. I love him, and he’s a great and supportive partner.
            But on work issues, I often don’t agree with him. And, there are NONE of my colleagues that I think are perfect (we’re all human–I’m not perfect either)–I see their imperfections up close. It’s easy to continue to have high regard for them despite that, because I only deal with them at work.

            But if I worked with my husband, then I’d see his imperfections at work AND at home. And it would go the other way as well. There’s never be a respite from it.

            Add in: At work I’m pretty directed and forceful—well, not forceful, but I’m a boss and department head, so I give directions and issue directives and make decisions for other people as part of my job, and I don’t wait to see what other people would like to do much of the time. As it is, I struggle sometimes to rein that it at home (my husband is a little more passive), and it’s not really good for our marriage. Having to struggle with that in two places, even if he didn’t report to me–especially with people watching, which could be hard on him–wouldn’t make for a good marriage.

            I’m working from home now, and we spend some chunks of the day deliberately being in separate rooms.

            1. Allura Vysoren*

              I can’t agree with this more. My wife and I work at the same company, partially by coincidence and partially because she can’t drive and it’s just easier if we work in the same building. I want to keep this short but it’s a toxic office, we often bring work vents home with us, and COVID’s given us the added bonus of an employer that wants to risk *both* of our lives. Recently, our company announced that our teams are merging. We don’t work well together and any hope of the promotion I requested last year is now dead.

              OP, even if your relationship is healthy, and you don’t foresee any issues of the two of you working together, and there aren’t any issues with chain of command *now*, that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way.

            2. Lils*

              I agree with all this. I met someone at work and we eventually married; we both quasi-reported to the CEO of a toxic organization. It was nonstop drama and toxicity from day 1 of our relationship–gossip, reprimands (!) when I would stop by his office to chat for a few minutes a couple of times per week, refusing to let us take the same vacation days even when we worked in completely separate departments. It went on and on. And since one of us was female and the other male, I’ll give you one guess who was on the receiving end of the gossip, reprimands, and restrictions. Never again.

            3. ThePear8*

              This. I once applied for a job on the same team as my now-ex, and we both were really hoping I would get it and I even did quite well in the first round interview and we were massively disappointed when I didn’t get it after the final round. In hindsight though I’m glad I didn’t get it – it was enough dealing with his imperfections outside of that and working together with him on school projects, that I barely had enough space to myself as it was and I don’t think it would’ve been good for me to have it around at work additionally, particularly as I was increasingly unhappy leading to up to our break up. And, since we ultimately broke up, although we’re still friends, that probably would’ve made work extremely awkward for a while. I think knowing him, it would have been hard to keep things professional between us. It’s been much better to have the freedom to choose my interactions with him outside of the confines of a job together.

          2. allathian*

            I wouldn’t want to work with my husband either. Granted, we work in completely different fields, so it would be hard to find an org with a job for both of us. But even if that happened, there’s no way I’d want to work with him. It’s certainly been interesting to see something of his very professional work persona now that we’re both WFH, though.

        5. Artemesia*

          And this is why the boss was absolutely 100% right to not consider hiring the partner. The letter itself demonstrates why it is poor policy to hire close relatives and especially romantic partner’s to work together. If this LW’s partner had work difficulties or were fired we can see how the LW would handle it.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            That was my thought. “This letter demonstrates exactly why people don’t want to work with couples.” You’re already taking your partner’s side over your own employer; can you really claim you’d do that over any qualified applicant who seemed reasonable but was passed over? Love makes us irrational.

        6. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, how on earth would something like this destabilize a (healthy) home life? Based on your SO’s and your responses, neither of you seems to have the chill and/or internal skills to handle working together well. Your manager’s instincts seem right-on.

        7. Essess*

          Agreed. The “someone who did this to me” is very odd. They didn’t do ANYTHING to you (OP). They chose not to interview a candidate. That isn’t changing anything about your current job or your job duties or your pay. Nothing changed. Nothing was ‘done’ to you. If there is an impact on your home life stability due to a decision made at your job that was only about your partner, that really raises concerns about your ability to keep work and home life separate if your partner had been hired and if there had been any issues between your partner and the supervisor’s work in the future.

          The recruiter already confirmed that they liked the skills of your partner. You should be calmly looking for positions under other supervisors for your partner instead of creating a giant storm and risking your own employment and reputation over a decision that is only between the employer and your partner.

          1. I'm Not Phyllis*

            This. And encouraging referrals is not a guarantee that anyone will hire the person you refer.

        8. Three Flowers*

          I did not catch this immediately because I was busy being appalled by everything else. Empathy fail on my part. I wonder if the instability is financial and they and their partner are desperate (and OP is also ignorant of professional norms and combative), or if the partner is taking it out on them. In which case, this becomes a partner problem…OP, maybe consult Captain Awkward’s archives and see if any of the letters, especially the Darth Vader Boyfriend ones, resonate with you.

        9. selena*

          ….sometimes when things are really tough, people can get stuck on magic solutions (my company hires my partner and now everything is good!) or can lash out in strange directions (my boss did this to me!)….

          I know from myself that i have a tendency to get stuck in those kind of thoughts whenever things get bad at work.
          It causes me to lash out and burn bridges, even though i know rationally that i should learn to let things slide.

          Some other people seem to read things like ‘my husband is angry about this’ as him egging her on, pressuring her to sabotage her own career to stick it to the company on his behalf.
          But i am not really sensing that, i think she simply got stuck on the idea that she could fix her husband’s career for him. In her mind she was probably already planning out the many years they would work together (thinking about projects he could do), and now the ground is knocked out from under her.

    2. Anhaga*

      That really summed up my gut reaction too . . . the very entitled stance the LW took would make me *very* worried about managing LW on the same team as LW’s partner. What other sorts of treatment would LW and LW’s partner feel entitled to? Someone who had this attitude on my team would give me definitely pause. My partner and I also actively try to avoid working at the same company after a decade of that (bad experience that had nothing to do with our relationship and everything to do with both of us feeling trapped in a toxic workplace), but still

      1. Cathie from Canada*

        I used to work as an administrator at a university – sometimes a new sought-after professor will make their employment conditional on their spouse also getting an academic position, because in a one-university city like mine there is nowhere else for the PhD spouse to work.
        This can work out well if the spouse is agreeable and pleasant, and doesn’t try to throw their weight around, and realizes that they will have to work extra hard to establish their quality.
        It works out badly if the spouse is jealous of their partner’s success and resentful that their “status” at the university isn’t as high, or if the second department is upset to have a new hire forced on them that they cannot really get rid of if the job doesn’t work out, or if the higher-profile professor feels so apologetic to their spouse that they try to run interference for their spouse through university politics.

        1. Oryx*

          It can also work out poorly for students if the spouse isn’t really equipped to teach at an academic level. One of my undergrad instructors got his job that way and while his classes were incredibly easy, it was frustrating because it felt like we weren’t learning anything (because we weren’t) and we would have him for 1-2 classes per semester all four years.

          1. TL -*

            How on earth was that instructor managing a course load of 4-8 classes per semester aimed at underclassmen and upperclassmen??

            No offense, but I think there was a much bigger problem there than his teaching ability – that’s an insane workload for a college instructor.

              1. AGD*

                Looks like an accidental multiplication of (1 or 2) * (4), which on a semester system would give you 4-8 classes in total, but distributed over two years. Yeah, I’m also an academic, and a teaching load of 4 classes or above per semester is ‘pretty much guaranteed burnout’ territory. 1-2 per semester is much more normal and reasonable.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Outside of research universities and for tenure track faculty the normal teaching loads tend to be 3-5 a semester. Tenure track faculty most places have a requirement of two classes a semester and are expected to buy out of one of them with grants. But non-tenure track faculty who are hired to teach usually have heavier teaching loads. And adjuncts may patch together a load of 4 or 5 at more than one college.

                2. TeacherTurnedNurse*

                  As a non-tenured instructor at a fairly large state university I often taught 7-8 classes a semester. These were composition classes with >30 students each, 4-5 major essays per class.

                  I did this for 10 years before I finally got fed up. I realize I’m off topic but it’s a pet peeve of mine that tenured faculty often don’t realize what’s heavy courseload the instructors around them are taking. I once dreamed of becoming tenure track, but the courseload I carried pretty much guaranteed I’d never have the time.

                3. Three Flowers*

                  TeacherTurnedNurse – 7-8??? Holy $&#@. I know a lot of adjuncts who have taught 5, maybe 6, scrabbling to get them at multiple universities (which I’m guessing you did too, considering how universities evade giving adjuncts benefits). Eight. Composition. I cannot even imagine. So sorry.

              2. DC CLiche*

                2 classes per year of school x 4 years = 8.

                I think my profs had, at most, 3 classes a year, and they’d teach the same courses year after year.

        2. Really Just a Cat*

          I worked in an academic department with a couple, although they were not together when they were each hired. It was a small department, and we voted on a lot of things, and you could trust that the couple would always vote as a bloc, one following the other’s lead. Made office politics really challenging. Also, since the supervisory role (department chair) rotates, there was also a time when one did supervise the other (something I absolutely should have objected to, but I was junior to them both and I did not know at the time that they were together as it was kind of an open secret).

        3. Lindsay*

          Spousal hires are common but sometimes the spouses aren’t even other professors. But like
          They are given an admin job.
          My husband works in post secondary admin work. In a prior job he got the woman he replaced negotiated a job for her spouse in like IT.
          Luckily I have worked out to have a career in an industry allowing me to worm from home
          Even pre covid so when my Spouse got a job at a new university far away I kept my job.

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        I posted under a different comment that at my public agency, our nepotism policy prohibits partners from having the same supervisor. Bottom line is that it makes PTO and scheduling other commitments a nightmare. Every time OP wants time off work for an extended period, OP’s partner will want time off work, even if scheduling commitments only allow you to give one of them the time off. If the partner gets to go to a great conference in Chicago, will OP be offended that OP wasn’t picked? Will OP want time off work too to go and enjoy all that Chicago has to offer? If OP needs time off for a medical procedure, the partner will also need the time off. If the partner loses power at their house and has issues that need to be handled, then the OP will need the same accommodation. And if some last minute late night work comes in, neither the OP or partner will want it because they have to carpool together.

        We used to allow partners to have the same boss, and after a bunch of terrible experiences, and threats of quitting by employees the second we couldn’t give them and their partner the exact same time off each and every time, we just prohibited it.

        1. Paperdill*

          Is there anyway we could highlight this comment so everyone including OP can see it?
          It’s such and obvious and basic reason that OP really should understand and might stop so many commenters going down an unwarranted spousal abuse rabbit hole.

          1. Flossie Bobbsey*

            Public Sector Manager raises very good points about why the supervisor chose not to interview the SO, but that doesn’t mean the abuse issue is a “rabbit hole.” The two issues have nothing to do with each other. Even if OP were to assimilate PSM’s points immediately, that doesn’t negate the undertone of potential abuse or home strife that many picked up on in the letter, including me, who has no firsthand experience that would potentially color my view of things. Public Sector Manager’s comment may help OP understand the rationality in the supervisor’s decision, but the words OP used still imply something may be up with the home relationship that is worth examining closely even after OP comes to terms with the supervisor’s decision.

        2. TTDH*

          Yep. In my department we have a pair of spouses, and they are separated onto different teams partly for this reason, despite having similar backgrounds and doing similar work. Since they don’t share a manager, nobody has two people on the same team trying to take the same time off.

    3. PolarVortex*

      Quite literally because OP is showing flags of what the supervisor was likely worried about – irrationally angry and willing to fight over something that seems like a very sane decision to me. (I can’t imagine anyone hiring the partner of an employee to work on the same team under the same person. Heck my company definitely hires a ton of relatives/partners of current employees but we take care to keep them separated from each other for all of the above reasons and more.)

      And maybe this is just me but: who on earth wants to work with their partner all day and then go home to your partner. You can’t escape each other or work then. (Different if you owned a business together but even still.)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Even then, I am fairly sure that the reason my grandmother was so good at housework was that her options were to do that or work with my grandfather at the shop, and suddenly mopping and scrubbing looked a lot better. And they liked each other!

        1. Lexie*

          My husband and I have a very firm policy that we will not work together. He’s considered opening his own business from time to time and I’ve said I’d pop in to lend a hand in a pinch but no way would I be a regular employee.

      2. Suzy Q*

        This. As a (former) manager, I would never want to have domestic partners of any kind (roommates, marrieds, etc) on the same team, and if I was a person with a SO, I would never want to work with them. Either of theses is a recipe for disaster.

      3. KateM*

        Maybe you’d even want and like to work with your partner in the same place, but that’s also putting all (two of) your eggs into same basket. Much better to be hired/employed/fired/quitting independently of each other.

      4. Greg*

        I love my wife! Spend as much time as I can with her. We complement each other really well and love each other a whole bunch.

        But we can’t put a four piece exercise bike together without getting in each other’s way. Can’t imagine working with her.

        1. PeanutButter*

          I also love my partner. I literally packed him a lunch and sent him to the game store to play Warhammer 40K so I could put together some flat pack furniture that had arrived. I might have told a white lie and that we’d put it together *together* after he got back…but seriously I can’t watch that man try to use a power drill ever again and retain my sanity.

    4. Lana Kane*

      Yes – bit just OP’s reaction but also this “My SO is also angry at my company for their lame excuses for not even interviewing him.”

      Has Supervisor also met SO? Is it possible that she knew right away that hiring him would compound an existing issue?

      1. CatLadyInTraining*

        The OP sounds like a teenager complaining. I hope they don’t act like that in office…

        1. Managing In*

          I think it’s fair to assume someone’s tone will be different or more restrained when they’re at work than when they’re writing to an advice column about their gripes – and where would this column be without complaints??

    5. Three Flowers*

      Yup. Not that the boss needed an excuse, but OP sounds, hmm, extremely assertive at a minimum, more likely kind of entitled (legal recourse? really?), and definitely ignorant of basic workplace norms. The absolute last thing I would want is any household member, let alone a romantic partner, of a person with that type of personality with them on my team. Hoo boy. That sounds like inviting your cube farm to become a cage match.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I may be reading too much into it, but the use of the term “domestic partner” makes me wonder if LW is in a same-sex relationship and feels there may be discrimination going on.

        If I saw straight couples being hired together but my (same sex) wife was turned down with an excuse about policy, I’d wonder the same thing. Same goes if LW is in an interracial relationship and the others aren’t, etc. It’s understandable for someone who routinely faces discrimination to be very reactive to red flags that might not seem like a big deal to someone not in that minority group.

        If I’m right and that’s feeding into these feelings, it’s very important for LW to take a step back and get all the facts. Are these other related people spouses/partners? If so, are there meaningful differences between the position your partner applied for and the position the other couples are in? For example a very large team might me more comfortable with having a couple work for the same supervisor than a small team doing similar work. Or a high level position where hiring is a bigger deal might be more particular about following policy compared to an entry level position that has high turnover. Etc. It might be worthwhile to do a gut check with someone you trust to be reasonable and level-headed.

        As Alison says, it’s a reasonable business decision to not hire partners on the same team… but it’s wrong to apply a reasonable policy in a discriminatory way. Once you’ve gone over all the facts, if you still think this is unfair/discriminatory you can figure out what to do from there. That might mean taking it to HR, it might mean finding a new job, it might mean talking to a lawyer, depending on your state law and how far you want to take it. But please don’t rush into anything! It’s very likely this is 100% innocuous normal business practice.

    6. LifeBeforeCorona*

      If your immediate response to the rejection is to take an adversarial position with your supervisor, then they will be convinced that they made the correct decision. It also might poison any other opportunities for your partner with the company.

    7. Jessica Fletcher*

      Even if it’s a hard rule the company or manager has, LW’s reaction proves it was the right decision in her case. Her partner’s anger at the supervisor is already causing issues, and he doesn’t even work there! Imagine hiring him and having to discipline one of them, and then dealing with this righteous outburst from the other. Wow.

  1. annakarina1*

    This would be a conflict of interest to hire an already-established couple to work on the same team. There’s a lot of good points being brought up here, and they may not want to take the risk of a couple who will claim they can be professional and have no bias, but that having a close personal relationship may affect it anyway or with colleagues. There are people who become couples at work, but they usually have to tell HR, and still maintain being professional at work and keep their personal relationship out of it.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Also, if OP has previously discussed issues with their partner at work, the boss could feel there was too much potential for drama. Granted, there is nothing in the letter mentioning this. But many people do discuss home life issues at work.

      I agree with Allison that the response here seems to he a bit over the top. I would be annoyed if this happened to me, but certainly not furious. Especially since there doesn’t seem to be clear that anyone else who referred a family member also lives with said family member. I understand working for the same company as a spouse/dating couple, but as Allison pointed out, there are a lot of good reasons to not necessarily want those sorts of relationships on a team.

    2. Seal*

      Agreed. At a previous job there was a couple that managed to do an end run around our organization’s nepotism policy and work on the same team. It was hell for everyone involved. The wife was a nasty piece of work that no one, including her supervisor, dared to stand up to because her husband was always right there. When someone new in HR finally put their foot down and forced her out there was a huge collective sigh of relief from everyone. Interestingly, the husband became much more relaxed and easier to work with once he didn’t have to spend 24/7 with his wife.

      1. allathian*

        And who can blame him? It can’t be easy to know that everyone hates (working with) your partner, even and especially if you can see why they do that.

    3. Djuna*

      And there are so many little things that can cause problems too – like always wanting to take PTO together.
      Which is fine and understandable, but not great if coverage is needed.

      I worked with a married couple for a while. They were on the same team, sat together, drove to and from work together, took PTO together, and got mad at stuff together. If one of them was angry about something, the other would get angry too, and instead of venting and letting go, things spiraled. If one went for a promotion and didn’t get it, they would both be hell to be around for weeks.

      Outside of work stuff, they are lovely people and I am very fond of them, but it really wasn’t healthy for them to work so closely together. They no longer do, and they seem happier for it. If OP is in this much of a tailspin over their SO not getting an interview it really feels like their boss made the right choice.

      1. Carlie*

        Besides PTO, my first thought was that right now, one gets Covid or quarantined, so does the other. That’s a good enough reason right there.

    4. Heather*

      My office has a few couples where both parties work here, but none are on the same team for a variety of reasons, including that they will want to take the same time off, which will prevent anyone else taking time off when the couples want to.

      1. Lexie*

        I worked at a place that had a lot of couples working there. The policy was that you could not be anywhere in your SO’s chain of command. One woman got promoted and the only way for her not to be above her partner in the chain of command was for one of them to change sites. He had seniority so she was moved. The practice was that couples did not work on the same team because there were too many potential issues.

    5. JJ*

      I used to know an “I’m always the victim” person who would definitely characterize themselves as being scrupulously professional. That same person would have *literal screaming matches at work* with the partner they were breaking up with, and somehow convinced themselves that that behavior was fine/understandable and people should have sympathy for their situation. They were truly blindsided to be fired.

      Not trying to imply that OP is that sort of person, but the person I knew definitely put on a good professionalism show to get jobs, so you just never know. Always safer not to hire the partner, it’s not personal.

  2. Marny*

    “ Will they fight the other person’s battles for them? (For example, if one of them doesn’t get along with their boss, will that impact the other person’s relationship with the boss?) What happens if one half of a couple gets fired or is treated in a way they feel is unfair? Does that not impact the morale and working relationships of the other person?”
    If this was the concern, then this letter validates this concern. All of this is reflected in the letter.

    1. Ali G*

      Yup! And the LW’s partner is also pissed about this, which just reinforces that having them on the same team would be a nightmare for the supervisor.

    2. Threeve*

      There are some super practical reasons to not want a couple on the same team, too–something that keeps one of them out of the office is likely going to take the other one, too (illness, car trouble, vacation). If a department needs coverage and it’s not a large team, that would be incredibly inconvenient.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        YES! I was coming here to say the same thing. I am the supervisor of two employees who are married to each other: one is full time and other is part time. (I inherited them both.) They are both excellent employees and there is non of the drama that Alison points out could happen. However, we are a service field with customer facing responsibilities, coverage matters. Only a few employees can be out at the same time. For scheduled vacations, this is tricky but no completely untenable–it has caused some minor issues. For things like unexpected illness, death in the family, it’s much more complicated, because I could lose two staff for the same issue, and finding last minute coverage isn’t always easy. Also, in the current covid crisis, we are asking people to volunteer to come on-site and we have limits for the number of shifts per week someone can come in. This couple does volunteer, but uses the limit for their household, not individual staff. So there are small ways that having two partnered people on the same team is a problem, and it’s not even the fault of the employees. If I had a say, I would not have partnered couples on the same team.

        It also occurred to me that your employer has realized that it can be problematic and is stopping the practice going forward, but is not going to fire or reassign people who are already in that situation. I’m not saying that’s happening here, but it is possible.

        1. Wintermute*

          If they are stopping the practice then doing so without explaining to someone who is banking on it is, indeed pretty crappy to do. Probably doesn’t warrant the level of vitriol displayed here but it would make me think twice about the company.

          1. Confusius*

            What exactly is there to be banked on? An “Employer does not refuse applicants because they are involved with a current employee” policy is hardly a guarantee (or even a suggestion or indication) of spouse/SO getting a job offer.

        2. Kate*

          I was a manager of previously assembled team that included a married couple – two very sweet and easy going folks, however the vacation time issue affected EVERYONE else on the team because they naturally wanted to take their time off together.

          As a manager it was a rock and a hard place situation.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes! And those are things which might have been different where the previous hires OP mentioned are concerned – for instance, if the teams they were hired into were larger, or if the relationship was parent / child , or siblings, for instance, where even if they do live in the same house they may well not be so likely to need the same time off.

      3. TootsNYC*

        it’s also not always financially wise for a couple to work at the same employer–they can both get downsized if the company takes a bad turn, for example.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Coronavirus exposure. (I wrote more below, but boy I can’t stop thinking about it.)

    3. Rowan*

      Yeah, OP I don’t know if you’re familiar with feeling like a “third wheel” but I imagine it would be uncomfortable for other members of the team, even if your relationship with your partner is always positive and professional at work. Like, are you going to be playing favorites with your partner over other coworkers?

      Also I hate to say it but there is a difference between a domestic partner and other kinds of family relationships. If it was the case you were recommending your aunt or mother or other blood relative, some of the same concerns would still apply but you wouldn’t be as likely to “break up” with a blood relative as you would with a partner. Of course there’s exceptions, but people do leave romantic/life partners more often than blood relatives, and that would cause a major disruption in a team.

      Having said all that please don’t quit this job just because your partner wasn’t hired, especially if the anger you’re feeling is largely coming from your partner. They made a reasonable business decision, and if you were happy here before this really shouldn’t affect that. You’d be hard pressed to find other places to work where they’d hire 2 domestic partners onto the same team.

      1. Wintermute*

        I don’t know, I think it’s good advice to sort out how much of the ire is coming from you versus coming from your partner. But deciding you don’t want to work someplace where an earnest recommendation to your boss isn’t worth either being told why it can’t happen or a courtesy interview is imminently reasonable in my opinion. If you have job options, I could see how that would induce you to start looking.

        1. Otter Dance*

          I’m not a fan of courtesy interviews. It just pushes the problem down the road a week or two. Maybe even makes it worse, if it raises expectations.

          1. Self Employed*

            I’ve had courtesy interviews and it is SO awkward and such a waste of time on both sides.

            1. twocents*

              I had a manager who insisted on courtesy interviews be completed whenever the applicant was from our team of ~100. Our company generally has a policy that only the top tier of candidates move onto the second round of interviews, but HR was flexible for internal department policies like this.

              The problem is that many of the employees didn’t know this was an upper management preference for his own team, so when they got the second interview, they assumed they were among the very best candidates. Caused lots of downstream impacts — especially when people got sick of always getting interviewed but never the job, and tried to move on. They couldn’t figure out why they were such an excellent candidate!! but weren’t getting interviews elsewhere.

      2. Roci*

        I agree with your larger point, but I think close family relatives would be an equally large problem, not because you’re less likely to “break up” but because I think people carry baggage and habits from other relationships into their work ones. I’d be concerned if people who had an unequal power relationship–parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, that sort of thing–could work seamlessly as equals in the office. I’m sure many people would have no problem with it, but for many it would be weird to give directions or critical feedback to someone who raised them (usually parents are more comfortable telling their kids what to do, can they take it from their kid though?) And you have the same issues with professionalism and coverage and favoritism as with any other relationship.

        1. allathian*

          Even if a parent and child were peers, I could easily see the parent stepping in and interfering in the child’s career in a way that the child wouldn’t like. Or else the child would accept it and expect it to happen, to the detriment of their career.

          I’ve been working for my current employer for about 13 years. We have several couples, but none of them work in the same department, never mind the same team. People who work in the same department and start dating will be transferred to different departments, or at the very least different teams. They can have the same grandboss but different direct supervisors.

          There was one case where a male and female employee, who were both married to other people, were found out when they decided to share a hotel room on a business trip and to expense it. My org usually pays for single hotel rooms, and if it’s necessary to share, they’ll never, ever ask a man and a woman to share a room, it’s just not done. To my org’s credit, no fuss whatever was made of the adultery stuff, that was left entirely up to the people concerned. Subsequently they divorced their former spouses and got married. I found out about the whole thing when they were married and the wife became a work friend.

          Interestingly, many of the women who have spouses who work for the same employer kept their maiden names when they married. You literally have to know who’s married to whom, because in each case they’ve been so utterly professional at work that it doesn’t show.

          We also have a brother and sister, who incidentally do have the same surname because the sister kept hers when she got married, who work in the same department for the same boss. Apart from going to lunch or taking the occasional coffee break together, you wouldn’t know by looking at them that they’re related.

    4. LGC*

      Yeah, like – even given the fact that we’re in a pan pizza, and (if you’re in the US) the job market is a mess, LW is already considering fighting their partner’s battles for him. They’re actually proving Alison’s point here!

      (I’m being A Kind Person™ and giving LW the Benefit Of The Doubt here – I don’t think they’re a jerk, they might just be in a bad situation and lashing out.)

      1. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

        I assume “pan pizza” = “pandemic” and I want you to know that that autocorrect has given me my first real laugh of the day, thank you!

        1. Lizzo*

          If the pandemic was actually anything like a pan pizza, I think a whole lot of us would be much happier. (And also probably a lot heavier.)

        2. burnt out designer*

          Sigh…yeah, this pan pizza has been really tough on my metal hearth but hopefully, the vacuum will help when we can get our shorts.

        3. JelloStapler*

          Same! I was racking my brain wondering what the poster was alluding to.

          Now I want deep dish pizza.

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Another issue I’ve experienced (not as the manager of the involved people, but working alongside them) is the potential for a more competent (in whatever is relevant to the job) spouse to ‘carry’ the other one, so that their performance can’t be fairly assessed independently.

      In that case ‘Bob’ was struggling with certain core aspects of the job, and had been for a long time even after several iterations of coaching/(fair) PIPs/etc, and ‘Jane’ (who didn’t even have the same direct manager as Bob but they had a mutual ‘grandboss’) was carrying Bob for a long time in terms of unofficially reviewing and improving Bob’s work, feeding Bob technical things to ask about in meetings, etc.
      (It was clearly apparent to me, but I didn’t get involved as I was only a bystander in this situation. When I had meetings involving Bob (I didn’t work directly with Jane much) I tried to take what he said at face value, explaining things that shouldn’t really need to be explained, or answering in technical detail when Bob asked a (fed-to-him) technical question. Had I been the manager I’d have taken it a lot differently!)

      TL;DR – another reason, which I haven’t seen mentioned so far, that it can be bad to have spouses/couples reporting to the same boss / working in the same area, is the possibility of ‘covering up’ of poor performance.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Exactly. This is a prime example of fighting the other person’s battle.

      If the SO had applied to any other employer and not been interviewed, it would be obviously, wildly inappropriate for LW to react this way or “push back.” And so it is here.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*


      If LW is this angry, can one imagine having the partner with similar provability on the same team? Poor supervisor!

      I have one couple on my team, but they report to different direct supervisors and are in totally different departments that have zero possibility of working together. We do not discuss either one’s employment situation with the other – they can do that at home, if they wish. Many people do not even know that they are long-time partners.

      Also, and this is just my editorializing – I would find working at the same place as my spouse to be a liability. If my employer goes south, both of us losing our jobs would be Very Bad. I like having two different sources of income, in case crap happens.

  3. Reality Check*

    “I now feel stuck between continuing to work for someone who did this to me and keeping my home life stable.” OP, this is why managers don’t want to hire two people from the same house.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Also….nothing was done to OP. All that happened is their partner didn’t get an interview! No one lopped of their arm with a katana and expects them to be back at work the next day as if nothing happened.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. And if the OP is this angry about the lack of an interview, what would their reaction be if the spouse didn’t get the job after an interview?

        1. RC Rascal*

          Yes. I far more disappointed in not getting a job after I’ve gone through multiple interviews than if I’m declined without interview.

          The SO is this upset after being declined without interview. ( I don’t count the HR screen).

        2. Essess*

          Or if it turns out both of them can’t get the same PTO days off because they can’t have 2 people on the same team out at the same time, or if spouse gets a promotion faster than OP, or one finds out that one of them got a raise that was different than the other, or they were put on different shifts when they wanted to commute together, etc…

    2. Heidi*

      That last sentence also struck me as being extreme. If the OP and the partner are both upset about the same thing, what makes it destabilizing? Is the partner pressuring the OP to quit over this? I hope that is not the case.

      1. Em*

        My read is that the letter writer is considering quitting, but doing so would make their home life less stable because they’d be down an income (with all the domestic implications that carries–having to rebudget, figure out how to pay bills or get health insurance, possibly move, etc.)

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        If a minor and reasonable disappointment can destabilize you, you were never that stable to begin with.

      3. Observer*

        It sounded to me like quitting would be destabilizing because No Income.


        Choice one – Keep my income and work for the “monster”
        Choice two – Quit and lose my income, but destabilize my home life.

    3. hbc*

      Yeah, that one sentence was just baffling. Both clauses.

      Nothing was done to OP, except maybe not having the policy spelled out in detail beforehand. But lots of these policies are basically “we absolutely won’t do it in X and Y situation” and the rest is case by case. You might even have some unofficial guidelines spring up when people work through whether cousins are too close or whatnot.

      And I can’t imagine my home life becoming unstable just because my company has (in my and my partner’s mind) a dumb policy around hiring. Lots of places have dumb policies around hiring, but unless they’re immoral, I wouldn’t fault my husband for continuing to work at such a place.

    4. CatPerson*

      If they really think those are the only two choices, they have some serious soul searching to do. That supervisor really dodged a bullet.

    5. SunnySideUp*

      Agree. “Did this to me” sounds like the OP sees herself as a victim, and she is not.

      OP, I would say, lose the attitude or you may lose your job.

    6. StillNoName*

      Honestly, makes me wonder what’s up with the partner. The OP is concerned about a perfectly reasonable decision made by NOT the OP destabilizing the relationship. I’m wondering if supervisor *knows* there’s only drama to be had by hiring partner.

    7. yala*

      Huh. Is her partner ALSO this upset? And with her? Is he getting pouty at her that he didn’t get the job? It’s super weird that him not working there would have a destabilizing effect on their relationship.

  4. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    There was a couple at work a few jobs ago that once they revealed their relationship, they stressed they would be professional and there would be no preferential treatment.


    They failed on that front so quickly.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I have both success stories (my parents for 30 years!! though they did not work in the same department), and horror ones (my first job, we had a married couple on the team. On a regular basis, the couple would have arguments that would result in the wife freezing him out at work, signing work documents with her maiden name, then they would make up and work would go back to normal, rinse, repeat). It is absolutely OP’s boss’s prerogative to not want to take any chances, because things could go either way.

    2. Mr Jingles*

      I once was promoted into a supervisory team where a couple worked together. It was desaster.
      There where 5 teamleads working 5 days a week (contracted) who had to cover shifts from 6 to midnight monday till friday and 9-20 on weekends so every employee always had someone from management available if there were issues. No problem, eazy-peazy hours… if everyone played ball. But those two, They insisted to be scheduled at the same times always! They also insisted working sundays. If those two hadn’t insisted on havin similar shifts, five people would have been more than enough to cover those shifts, three would work in rotating shifts mo-fri and two would cover the weekends in alternating shifts as well as covering for the colleagues on their off days, everyone could have two days off a week, three people could have free weekends every other week but no! Those two had to always work together and always the early shifts, alegedly due to a lack of childcare for their teenage! kids! So every Sunday a third teamlead had to come cover the afternoon shift and it was as if there where only four people people working where one had always an odd shift. So while those two also insisted on consecutive days off, their schedule looked like that: monday to thursday 8am-5:30pm, Friday and Saturday off and Sunday 9-5:30pm. Everyone else had to plan themselves around that! They where also so insistent as soon as somebody pushed back they’d run to our boss’ boss complaining about people harassing them for being a couple! In Germany bullying is a punishable offense and they misused that horribly being enabled by our boss’ boss who was a pitiful pushover.
      Someday our boss had enough and forced them into another departement, one that was lead by his boss directly. Within 2 weeks they where gone. When our boss’ boss had to deal with them himself, all of a sudden he was able to get rid of them!
      We got just one new colleague who was willing to share the workload evenly, which meant on weekdays three people a day where enough to cover the whole day and two would cover the weekends together, one early one late. No one missed the couple. We managed to cover all shifts without any hassle and everybody was able to have free weekends at least twice a month as well as consecutive days off during the week as well if they where working the weekends. The one or two odd hours in the middle shift where no one was there on weekdays where covered by our boss. Later we got a team assistant who’d cover those hours and jumped in during PTO. It was a fine job… without the unreasonable couple in the mix.
      Those two had a lot more issues going on and where nasty busybodies so even if they’d budged on the scheduling thing no one would have shed a tear when they left.

    3. MJ*

      Back in the day (in an adjacent department), a male and a female coworker happened to take vacation leave at the same time. No one thought anything of it. When they returned the female coworker had an appointment with HR, again nothing strange there. Well it turned out that she was with HR to confirm name change, etc. These two had gotten married – to each other – while on leave. No one, and I mean no one, even knew they were dating, and had been for a couple of years. There was talk about splitting them between departments, but first they did specialized engineering work and second they had shown they could keep their personal lives out of the office. Colleagues spent a fair bit of time trying to see how they missed the signs, but there weren’t any. I said good on them!

  5. learnedthehardway*

    Even if the company has a policy of hiring based on merit and experience, that doesn’t obligate any particular manager to hire a candidate they feel wouldn’t be a fit on their team. And MANY (if not most) managers/supervisors would be very, very reluctant to hire the spouse/domestic partner of a current employee to the very same team, for all the reasons that Allison mentions.

    The OP’s reaction to this very reasonable decision on the part of their supervisor illustrates why hiring their domestic partner would be an extremely bad idea. The supervisor made the correct decision.

    1. Public Sector Manager*

      I work at a public agency and our nepotism policy prevents people in a committed relationship from having the same supervisor. It interferes with a lot of legitimate business decisions. If OP gets 2 weeks vacation for a holiday, then OP’s partner will want that same time off, even if staffing needs of the office won’t permit the partner to be off work. This is especially a huge problem around the holidays because we only close on the holiday itself. If OP has a medical appointment, the partner may need the same time off to look after the OP. If OP goes to a conference in a fun city, will the partner be content with staying at home. And vice-versa. This is in addition to everything Alison pointed out. And the OP’s over-the-top anger on this issue.

  6. JohannaCabal*

    Everything Alison said!

    Also, whenever I hear about spouses working together in the same company, even in different departments, I always wonder about job security. If the worst happened and the organization shut down or laid staff off, there’s a chance of two people being out of work instead of one.

    Now, I recognize this can be a challenge for people in small towns with just one or two major employers, so it may not necessarily be avoided.

    1. Ashley*

      I think about vacation requests. Especially if you are both in the same department, you are both going to request off that same time and that could leave the department short handed and give someone seniority who might not otherwise have in the vacation request lottery.

      1. Here we go again*

        Anytime off really, like if one half of the couple goes into quarantine you’re short staffed by two.

        1. caps22*

          This is happening in my company. Both the husband and wife have to quarantine when their toddler picks up any sort of fever right now. They are both really great to work with, no spouse drama at all, and we’re lucky to have both of them. But it is hard right now.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Years ago, I worked at a place that implemented gender neutral paid parental leave. The catch was that if both parents worked for the company only one of them could take it (or they could split it). A fair amount of couples both worked there because it was a decent paying manufacturing plant in a smallish town.

        1. Anny*


          In other words: when two spouses work for the same employer, they have 12 weeks combined leave for the birth of a child, adoption/foster placement of a child, or illness of a parent, and 26 weeks combined leave to care for a servicemember that is their child or parent or for whom they are next of kin.

          Interestingly enough, it only applies to spouses – and while that includes common-law spouses, the legal definition of common-law spouse is rather strict. Colloquially it’s often used to describe a cohabiting couple, but legally, it’s not a common-law marriage unless you act like a married couple: you introduce your spouse as “my husband” or “my wife”, etcetera. “Having a reputation in the community of being married” or a variation of thereof is a criterion in all of the places where common-law marriage is a way of getting married. (7 states + DC, though all other states recognize common-law marriages gotten in one of those states).
          But it does not include domestic partnerships, civil unions, people who share progeny, etc. I think that’s interesting.

          1. HoundLover*

            Downside to that is that FMLA does not recognize domestic partners as family members that you can take FMLA for.

            So, in the parenting example above, the domestic partnership entitles both parents to leave, but if one was ill, the other would not be entitled to leave to take care of the other.

            In all fairness, many companies choose to be more generous than the law.

            The issues raised about medical insurance is often due to carrier requirements, and not employer preferences.

      1. doreen*

        Under some state family leave laws and some employer policies , both parents can take the full amount of leave even if they work for the same employer- but they may not be allowed to take it simultaneously. So one parent can take 12 weeks of bonding leave and then the other can take it.

      2. RosyGlasses*

        That’s actually a FMLA rule (the two parents taking leave that are at the same employer). Just this year, California’s Family & Medical Leave Act did away with that stipulation but it is still part of the Family & Medical Leave Act (federally).

        1. Cat Tree*

          FMLA is unpaid leave, while the parental leave this company offered was paid (also only 6 weeks). Also, FMLA is the *minimum* requirement for companies, so it’s not relevant here. I never implied that this company was doing anything illegal, only that it was a crappy policy they tried to dress up as progressive.

    3. Essess*

      At one of my oldJobs, if people were married they could only have one insurance policy between them. If they worked at separate companies, they could each have a married insurance policy so that they would each be covered by 2 insurances (plus their kids had 2 coverages that way). But working at the same job, they only had 1 insurance so that causes them to have higher uncovered copays/deductibles and less coverage on their kids because of where they worked.

      1. doreen*

        I think that made a lot more difference in the past, when the employee’s share of insurance was less expensive because more was covered by the employer. I have good insurance – my share is about $245 every two weeks. If my husband worked for the same employer and we could have 2 family plans* if he took the same plan as me (others are more expensive and have worse coverage) , that would be an extra $245 every two weeks – that’s an awful lot of $20 copays.

        * we can’t, although we can have one individual and one family

  7. 3 Owls*

    Just because other managers don’t have an issue with managing two or more family members or spouses, etc. does not obligate this manager to feel the same. Something that may also be a concern for the supervisor is that when two people live together it ups the chances of them both being out at the same time due to illness. Or at least having some overlapping sick days. When those two peopleoare on the same team, that team can end up even more shorthanded. When those two people are in a relationship, it also means vacation times will be the same, again, the team is left even more shortnaded than they would have been.

    I don’t know how big of an employer the LW works for, or how many people are under this supervisor, but for smaller teams this can be a big problem.

    1. KHB*

      Or if the natural career progression would see some member of the team eventually promoted to supervisor, that would mean that both members of the couple would be ruled out for promotion, since promoting either of them would mean that one is now managing the other.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      I wondered whether maybe there had been problems in the past around this and while the company had been okay with hiring partners before, they have since had second thoughts. If it was in a different department OP may not have known what happened.

    3. Essess*

      Also, OP mentions that although there are family members working together, OP doesn’t know if they live in the same household. So they might not even fall under the same issue that OP is having.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      What stuck out to me when reading that bit of the letter was how they’d said “domestic partner” and were upset that other people seemed to be allowed – but also acknowledging those people’s same-household status was unknown.
      That brought to mind to me that perhaps the subtext here is “did I just find out my boss is homophobic?” implying the company in general is ok with spouses, but not OP’s partner specifically, for more nefarious reasons. If and only if that’s what OP is really worried about, the extreme reaction and personal offense taken makes more sense. I think it’s still an overreaction in this context since there are many very reasonable, non-discriminatory reasons already mentioned above why spouses reporting to the same person are a bad idea. But if OP took it as “it’s about MY partner specifically and not partner’s in general like I was told”, I can see why they’d feel so strongly.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t think it has anything to do with “did I just find out my boss is homophobic? ” The letter refers to coworker’s “family members” being hired although the letter-writer doesn’t know if they live in the same house – if the family members were spouses or SOs, I think the LW would have just assumed that they lived in the same house, Although TBH, I’m not sure “no longer under consideration for the job due to us living in the same house” was an accurate rendition of what the recruiter told the SO which was third hand by the time it got to us. I find it hard to believe that that they would have considered him if only they lived separately.

      2. Observer*

        But if OP took it as “it’s about MY partner specifically and not partner’s in general like I was told”, I can see why they’d feel so strongly.

        Except that it doesn’t really make sense that this is what is happening. For one thing, the OP mentions contingent employees. More importantly, they mention family members NOT spouses, SOs, or domestic partners. And given that the OP doesn’t even know if they live in the same household, it’s unlikely that these are couples.

        Also, the OP explicitly complains that they are apparently being discriminated against for their housing situation, not gender or even marital status. Given how quick they have been to jump to legal action that simply doesn’t make sense if that’s what were going on.

        That’s on top of the fact that the name on the email tends to indicate that this is not a same sex couple.

      3. WS*

        This has happened to me – my partner was not a “real” partner because we’re both women – but I think the OP would have mentioned it because it’s something that’s really obvious when it happens.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        This was what stuck out to me, too. If that’s the case I think LW is still over-reacting, at least until they have a more complete picture of the situation… but the reaction is much more understandable.

  8. ENFP in Texas*

    “Based on the aggressively adversarial stance you took in your letter, I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss already sees you as something of a problem.”

    This. If the OP has such a strong reaction to something as routine as “not getting an interview” (which happens all the time and is a normal part of working life), I’d be afraid of how the OP would react if they thought their SO was “treated unfairly” by the manager after being hired – a less-than-glowing review, not getting a raise or bonus the OP felt they “deserved”, not getting a day off that was requested…

    Also, the OP brings up “I know my company has hired contingent employees who also were family members of my coworkers and had the same supervisor” as a basis for feeling discriminated against, but a permanent, full-time position is different than a contingent worker.

    Also, “continuing to work for someone who did this to me” is taking a business decision far too personally. In the end, hiring is the manager’s decision.

    1. Wombats and Tequila*

      There is also the possibility that the husband wound the wife up and was putting a bunch of pressure on her.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        We don’t know the gender of the letter writer, please don’t assume that someone with a male domestic partner is a wife.

  9. RS*

    Absolutely agree with Alison that the tone of the letter reveals a sense of aggrieved entitlement and very limited perspective-taking skills, suggesting a prickly disposition that’s already likely a problem at work.

      1. anon for this*

        I made a bad error like this with a potential employer once (they promised me a job verbally and then sent me a form rejection, and I got ticked off and wrote an entitled email), and it burned a bridge badly. I was 21 at the time. I apologized profusely to both of the people I’d forced to have to deal with me, and then I didn’t do it again. I’ve ended up working for a rival group and a LOT of the people all know each other, so it’s only luck that meant that this didn’t really harm my reputation.

  10. LegallyBrunette*

    Hoo boy. My sympathy to the manager here. She made a sound, logical decision. Based on OP’s letter, it’s not clear that there is any double standard regarding hiring family members of current employees. The company very well may be following a policy not allowing a supervisor to manage family members who live together. And “family member” can be broad – there’s probably less opportunity for conflicts of interest when hiring a cousin, for example, than a spouse.

    1. Dewey Decibal*

      Yes! I’ve worked with my cousin before and was professional. However, there’s no way you could ever get me to think working with my spouse was a good idea.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – this could easily be a company policy that exists but is hard to discern from just a surface glance. Even the OP mentions that they are unsure if the previously hired family members are living in the same household.

      It also could just be a personal policy of the immediate supervisor because of their own previous experience.

      Either way, this ship has sailed, and OP needs to accept that this isn’t something to fight about/over with their manager.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      This sounds more like “I (or my partner) is suited to the job so I cannot picture why I/my partner didn’t get hired”, without understanding that on-paper qualifications aren’t the whole story.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes – OP seems to think their partner is being ‘discriminated against’ by this company simply because they live with a current employee. Which to me reads like another example of the ‘is this discrimination??!!!’ letters we see here every now and then – something doesn’t go the way someone wants it to, and they immediately jump to ‘it feels like discrimination/is there any legal recourse here/how can I make them stop doing this and do what I want instead’. It’s not ‘discrimination’ for a boss to decide they don’t want to hire people who live with current employees.

        1. Allypopx*

          That was my read too – the knee-jerk self-pity definition of “discrimination” not the legitimate one.

        2. RC Rascal*

          Yes. The same as people confuse the legal definition of hostile work environment as “ my boss is mean to me”.

        3. Kate*

          Aren’t there some places where you’re not allowed to discriminate in hiring based on family relationships though? I don’t understand all these snide comments implying OP is stupid for even asking if it’s legal. E.g. Oregon: ‘An employer cannot refuse to hire because the applicant has a relative working for the same company, unless one family member would work in a supervisory capacity over the other, or unless the employer could demonstrate the existence of some other bona fide occupational qualification.’

    2. Data Bear*

      I was wondering the same.

      The one scenario where OP’s grievance could be valid is if the company has no problem hiring spouses or parents and children to work under the same manager but a same-sex domestic partner is being discriminated against. But given OP’s uncertainty about whether the other employees live under the same roof, it seems on the less likely side.

      1. JM60*

        Yeah. There are very good reasons to not consider family members, but it would be discrimination if they do consider/hire opposite-sex couples, but not the OP’s (potentially) same-sex partner.

        People often forget that the ultimate benchmark for determining if discrimination occurred isn’t “Did the company have a valid reason for their action”, but rather, “Does/would the company treat people of other [race/sexual orientation/gender/ etc.] differently when all else is the same.”

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I suspect the anger means we’d have been told that detail, but you’re right that we have no pronouns except for the partner.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        The reason why I thought it was a same sex couple is the wording and the vibe of the email. It’s not the use of “SO” and “domestic partner” per se – I can’t really put my finger on it. It’s just that I have seen this kind of situation recounted in a very similar way. Same sex and different sex couples talked about it in a slightly different way and often didn’t mention the possibility of same sex bias. And this letter, at least to me, reminiscent of how people in a same sex relationship would describe the situation. But I could be wrong. (Although I am a woman currently in a long-term heterosexual relationship, I can claim a letter from LGBT and have been quite involved with LGBT rights activism. Just saying in case anyone thinks that I’m stereotyping without knowing what I’m talking about.)

          1. Elle by the sea*

            Oh OK, thanks for the clarification. It wasn’t clear that you meant the name in the email address.

        1. Batgirl*

          I started out thinking “domestic partner” meant gay but it became pretty clear that the OP was simply trying to define the relationship she felt was being discriminated against. Honestly, gay people usually have better discriminition stories to tell than this.

    4. Beth Jacobs*

      In British English, partner is just the default term for a significant other, without the same-sex connotations it carries in American English.

  11. That Girl*

    It also seems like OP don’t have all the information about hiring at your organization, which is not OP’s fault – but might imply that there was a policy OP didn’t know about. It might be worth following up with the supervisor to determine what the policy really is.

    1. Allypopx*

      Possibly, but it also doesn’t need to be a policy! This can certainly fall under managerial discretion.

    2. Zennish*

      I suspect this is more a “Manager is wary of this particular couple” rather than “Policy says no couples” situation. Part of the hiring consideration is to try and avoid setting yourself up for future drama and conflict, when possible.

    3. BRR*

      I would recommend the LW does not follow up with the supervisor regarding the policy. I’m making some assumptions but I would be concerned it would come off as a precursor to arguing with the hiring manager’s decision. At most, the LW could do some soft asking to see if their SO should be considering their employer at all. But the absolute most important thing the LW needs to do is move on.

    4. AntsOnMyTable*

      Also, this is their partner and clearly they aren’t able to be unbiased, how do we even know his candidacy was strong compared to the other candidates? This could also be a mix of him not being that strong and either they didn’t want to say and/or it wasn’t enough to balance out his living with a current employee.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Sure, if the LW wants to convince the supervisor that they made the 100% correct call in refusing to interview the SO.

      It’s certainly not going to improve anything in the LW’s working relationship with the supervisor.

  12. Gone Girl*

    Another consideration to add: while it sounds like the company may currently have other family members working together under the same supervisor, it’s entirely possible that management has found this to be an unsuitable solution and may be implementing a new policy going forward.

    1. Juneybug*

      That is what I was thinking as well! I feel the company is saying “well, we tried but it didn’t work out to hire family members so let’s not do that in the future.”

    2. Antilles*

      It’s also possible that these other couples weren’t dating originally when they were hired. “I guess we’ll have to deal with it” is often different than actively choosing to walk into a scenario.

      1. Self Employed*

        The pandemic might have brought out new concerns about having two members of the same household in the same department.

  13. Managing In*

    Gently intended – your word choice “someone who did this to me” is a perfect example of what you need to rethink. Your manager didn’t do this to punish you – they made a business decision.

    1. Dust Bunny*


      Nobody did anything to you. They didn’t even do anything to your partner. This mindset is really problematic.

    2. micklethwaite*

      Yes, very much this. LW sounds as if they believe their partner was guaranteed an interview based on their referral, and that the manager’s stance is a personal attack. That just isn’t how hiring works. It’s not personal, it’s about making the best call for the business, and hiring a co-habiting partner can have much greater ramifications than hiring a more distant family member.

      But also, applying for a job or being referred for a job never guarantees getting the job, or even the interview. Most jobs have many applicants and only one successful candidate, which means that most of the time, most people don’t get the jobs they go for! It wasn’t taken away from your partner, LW – it never belonged to either of you.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        This +100000.

        LW’s partner was not entitled to anything. Nothing has been taken or kept from him; it’s not like he was the incumbent and it was his job to lose. Most jobs have many applicants and only interview a few. That he met the job requirements didn’t mean he was getting interviewed in the first place or getting the job in the second place. Then living with LW made him an even less likely candidate, unless he was the one person in the world who could have done the job.

        That’s not an aspersion on the applicant or LW or their relationship; it just means it’s generally better for the business if employees are not a couple (…as evidenced by how LW is behaving…), and LW’s supervisor knows this. LW is thinking about her relationship first, and Supervisor is thinking about the business first. This time, those goals are at cross-purposes.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          And plus, hiring on merit doesn’t mean you literally just read the resume and whosever is fanciest wins. Personality, maturity, and the potential to create problems for the team are all parts of “merit” as well.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yep, over my lifetime I’ve applied to dozens, possibly hundreds, of jobs that I was well qualified for but didn’t result in an interview or job offer. It’s disappointing especially during a recession, but that’s how the process works and I never took it personally.

        Now that I’m more established in my career, I’ve also been recruited for many jobs, some of which really matched my skills. And I’ve applied for, interviewed, and even accepted an offer for a few of those. But most of them I’m just not interested in for whatever reason, even if it looks like a good match on paper.

  14. Annony*

    Another thing to note is that family member and domestic partner are two different things. The potential for things to go sideways when you hire someone’s SO are much higher than hiring their nephew.

    1. Three Flowers*

      Yep. In my book, candidates-known-to-current-employees from least risky to most risky:

      *Cousin (does not live with you)
      *BFF (does not live with you)
      *Aunt/uncle (does not live with you)
      *Sibling (does not live with you)
      *Any cousin, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, or sibling who does live with you
      *Significant other
      *Significant other you have complained about, like, ever
      *Significant other you complain about *or fawn over* a lot, or who sounds like an AITA or r/relationships post waiting to happen, or who you combatively campaign to get hired
      *The boyfriend the current employee wants everyone to call “master”

    2. UKDancer*

      Definitely. When I was a teenager my mother press-ganged me into working in the shop she managed because her Saturday assistant walked out at short notice. I only took the job on the clear understanding that I would never work on the same days as Mum so she revised the timetable to make sure we were on different days. I adore my mother but I wouldn’t want to work for her. I don’t like mixing family with business.

      I think working for someone you were in a relationship with would be a lot more difficult given the potential for things to go wrong in a way they don’t with a familial rather than a romantic bond. I can’t think of anything worse and have never dated anyone I’ve worked with.

  15. Dust Bunny*

    My workplace has had married couples before but they were in different, unrelated departments and basically only saw each other at the beginning and end of the day, and maybe at lunch if their schedules permitted. There was no meddling in each others’ work lives.

    Your employer does not owe your partner a job, or even an interview. If your habit is to react this strongly when things don’t go the way you wanted them to, I can understand why your supervisor didn’t want to be more involved.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’ve seen this work well when the employer was fairly large, and the couple worked in unrelated teams/departments or even different branches/locations. Reporting to the same supervisor would not fit that model unless they were both quite high up, eg two branch managers reporting to a regional manager.

    2. Batgirl*

      I know possibly…two couples who have what it takes to work with other. I know none who want to do that.

  16. Amber Rose*

    Take a deep breath, accept this as any other failed job application, and move on. Whatever you think about your company’s hiring practices, basically nobody hires SOLELY on qualifications and merit. All hiring managers take into account things like, how will this person impact the team, do I feel like I can work well with this person, do they seem to have a good temperament, etc.

    1. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

      And in addition, interviewing is also based on other candidates. I’ve hired for jobs where there were definitely qualified applicants who didn’t even get an interview because *other* qualified applicants just outshone them and there’s only so much you can do as interviewer. One job required a specific professional degree or the equivalent experience- but the candidates I loved really came to life through their cover letters, through a rich or interesting work history, and possessed specific skills that weren’t necessarily needed for the job but appreciated by the hiring committee.

      Also, as Alison has stressed, nobody is owned an interview.

      1. Antilles*

        The candidate pool matters too. I’ve had at least one scenario where a candidate applied in January and was the sixth-best candidate when I’m only phone-interviewing five people…then he applied again in March for another position, but this time the pool was weaker and he made the cut.

  17. tryingToCode*

    Is there a reason you need your partner to work for *this* company? I’d be glad if mine didn’t get an interview with my company. Especially with how companies navigated the plague, would you want to both be furloughed because a single company closed? Right now, if my company goes under, we lose half of the rent not all of the rent.

  18. animaniactoo*

    LW, I’m seriously concerned that you are going along with your partner’s description of the reasons for not interviewing them as “their lame excuses”

    even as you outline a number of things that you don’t know which might make your situation different from other situations in the company.

    I suspect this may be born of frustration at thinking that you had all the pieces lined up and this was going to be great all around… and then were stopped in your tracks at the early round.

    BUT. Please take a hard look at that and whether you truly would have been so capable of keeping your professional and personal lives separated at the office. Because right now… it’s not looking so promising. Right down to your thinking you might need to quit over this.

    I don’t know how much of that is driven by your own internal voices and how much is driven by your partner… but please take a hard look at that. You’re thinking about leaving a stable job over something you’re not even SURE was discriminatory towards you/your partner. That is some really shaky ground to be on.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      LW, I’m seriously concerned that you are going along with your partner’s description of the reasons for not interviewing them as “their lame excuses”

      Actually, I read this differently (I could be wrong!) about ‘lame excuses’.
      I took from it that the OP herself is the one mostly angry / aggrieved about this, and she (not the SO) characterises the supervisor’s / company’s response as “lame excuses”.
      I thought she added that her SO is also angry about this almost as an afterthought (i.e. I suspected OP was much more angry about it than the SO and has also got the SO agitated about it).

      Maybe OP can clarify that part?

      1. Allypopx*

        That was my read too – or maybe the SO is mildly perturbed and the OP is blowing it out of proportion. But it could be vice-versa, i.e. the SO is super upset and it’s getting the OP riled.

        Either way – exactly the kind of thing a hiring manager would be trying to avoid by not hiring the SO!

      2. animaniactoo*

        Possibly – but even if I’m the one who is wrong, I still swing that back down to “You’re ready to leave over something you’re not even SURE about. You need to dig in to that.”

        fwiw – where I got the impression that it was the partner pushing it was from the closer:

        I now feel stuck between continuing to work for someone who did this to me and keeping my home life stable.

        Because why would staying not keep the home life stable unless the partner is the one pushing the view/need for action?

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I read stable as income-stable, not that the partner was pushing for action. So many way to interpret this letter.

  19. Sparkles McFadden*

    Having spouses/SOs in the same department can create such a large number of problems, I would be surprised anyone would consider it. Depending on how large your group is, the scheduling of time off alone would make it prohibitive. The fact that you are both taking this practical decision so very personally is concerning. Saying you “don’t want to be a pushover” or referring to this as something your supervisor “did to you” is also concerning. You actually have no standing to push back against any management hiring decisions. Thinking you should say something because this is your SO is a good example of why your management would abide by this standard hiring policy.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, would the OP want her partner to get the job if it meant they could never have time off at the same time? Not only vacation, but bereavement, household emergencies, etc. could mean that the team loses 2 people instead of 1. And that’s aside from the very real issues with having an established couple on the team (you tell one person something, they tell the other one; you have to put one of them on a PIP and the other one is upset, etc.)

  20. Mellow Yellow*

    Back in college, I worked with my now-spouse. It wasn’t considered weird because it was a retail job where all the front end employees were 18-22 years old. However, the unofficial policy was that he and I couldn’t work on the same floor if we were on shift together. We didn’t even bicker or cause problems necessarily, we just joked with and riffed off each other constantly and our boss wanted more professionalism on the floor.

    I can’t imagine anyone in a professional office having to put up with our weird jokes or us having to suppress that side of our relationship while at work. I don’t blame OP’s manager for declining to hire the partner of an employee.

  21. Mental Lentil*

    The sheer number of letters here about married people who work together who shouldn’t be working together, or married to each other, or both, is enough evidence that this is a potentially problematic situation. There are all sorts of potential conflicts of interest here.

    The sense of entitlement is strong with this one.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I mean, this is a column where people go to get advice. Couples who are working well together don’t ask for advice. So I wouldn’t assume it’s always a problematic situation.

      But this one? Yeah, this one has problematic written all over it.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – there are two married couples in my husbands office. One couple you know are related – only because they share a not common in this area last name. The other couple are slightly more open about the fact they are married – but are still totally professional. They also don’t work in the same department as their spouse. It can work – but the couples we normally hear about are the ones that aren’t working – it is an advice column.

      2. Mental Lentil*

        Yep. That’s why I said “potentially”. If this company has been burned on this before, they may not be willing to go this route again, and that’s perfectly within their rights.

        1. Self Employed*

          Even if it had been working, with the pandemic they may be seeing new problems–both partners being quarantined or sick at the same time, both partners losing their internet if they work from home, problems with scheduling if they are having people go to the office part time and the couple want to go in together but it makes more sense for the workload to have them do different days, etc.

  22. grogu*

    why would anyone want to work with their partner anyway? i adore my SO, we’ve been together for 5 years and live together but it’s super important to us to have separate individual lives, including wrt our careers. i wouldn’t want to spend all day every day with them.

    1. Leems*

      Same here. My work self is significantly different than my non-work self, and it’s been enough of an adjustment for my spouse and I to be working out of the same house during the pandemic–we’ve both seen a lot of how much we both switch between work/personal selves.

      Also, I work for a giant company, and when my spouse was casually looking for new opportunities a few years back, there were some suitable positions at my firm, but we made a rule–we couldn’t work in the same division of the company. If the position had the same Executive Leader as mine, it was out of the running–since we didn’t want to put all the household eggs in one basket.

      1. grogu*

        lol, same here about working from home together. i think we just mutually pretend not to hear each other doing Work Voice on calls and such.

    2. Bagpuss*

      People do vary an awful lot, though. I know couples who avoid being apart at all if they can avoid it, and while it looks a bit stifling to me, I suppose that if that’s the kind of relationship you have / want then working together as well could be perfect. At least from your point of view, if not necessarily that of your employer or co-workers.

      I admit I take a somewhat jaundiced view of close family members working together having had difficult experiences as a manager with having employed an (adult) child of another employee. Sid child resigned just ahead of a (probable) firing and the lead up and follow on was not easy

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. I get it that some couples really do want to spend every available minute with each other, and those are the ones who can run a small family business effectively. For most couples, though, too much is just too much!

    3. Campfire Raccoon*

      LOL, right? I run my husband’s business. (He’s all things operations, I am all things business) If we’d done this 5 or even 10 years into our marriage, it’d have been a spectacular, explosive disaster. It’s not perfect with us and the kids working from home now, but we do ok. Convo we had this morning:
      “You gonna be in the field today?”
      “Do you need me to be in the field today?”
      “Yes. Until 2 at least.”
      “Are you busy, or are you tired of me?”
      “Let me get my coffee. Love you!”
      “Love you too!”
      — I can’t imagine how awful it would be if we were lateral and working in the same place.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s not just clear, there’s an underlying confidence. “I need down time right now, but when I come back up for air, I still want you in my life.” There’s a quiet sureness going on there. And this is what doing long hauls with anyone (family member, SO, BFF etc.) can look like between two people who are who are absolutely determined to walk through life together.

    4. Sylvan*

      My parents do that. They don’t seem to be driving each other crazy, although I don’t think I could do it.

    5. Risk Manager*

      My husband and I work for the same company but in different departments. We enjoy it and it’s quite nice to have someone who genuinely understands when one of us says ‘How is the llama wrangling framework so unclear!’ or to have someone to discuss the nuances of the teapot painting regulations with BUT a) we are an exception not the rule and b) we don’t ‘cross streams’ professionally. We’d never want to work in the same department or even function (our company has circa 200k employees globally)

    6. Antilles*

      I would also be worried from a financial aspect – working in the same company means mass layoffs or the company going bankrupt or whatever hits both of you simultaneously.
      Even worse, since you’re in the same department, it could even just be a decision about your department/market segment – something as simple as “we’re reorganizing our functions so accounting will now be handled by a third party outside firm” suddenly means both of you are unemployed and looking for work.

  23. Blisskrieg*

    I agree with Alison’s response (completely) but would have liked to see this portion addressed: “I know my company has hired contingent employees who also were family members of my coworkers and had the same supervisor. I don’t know if they all lived under the same house.” That’s the only thing that gives me pause to think that the OP might have the germ of a case (although the attitude is still so overblown). I noted Gone Girl expresses that perhaps they are moving to a new policy based on past failures, which I think is very possible.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      But contingent workers are by definition, temporary, and it’s much easier to fire them (or not renew the contract) than a full time permanent employee. Every place I’ve worked has had different policies for contingent/temp employees than perm employees.

      1. PT*

        I’m also wondering if this is a different situation. Hiring Spouse A on a relocation and hiring Spouse B as a six month temp so they have some runway to land on and make it more likely Spouse A accepts the offer, is totally different than hiring Spouse A and then Spouse B to work in the same department, for example.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Gone Girl’s theory is possible, and OP also notes that she doesn’t know if they live in the same house – might be siblings or parent/adult child or something along those lines.

      1. TootsNYC*

        right? Because if they were spouses or life partners, you’d know that they live in the same house.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        ^ agreed. I’m not exactly sure either. Probationary? Or as “I’m a Little Teapot” suggests, temporary? Is there a standard definition? That’s why I would have liked to see more dissection of that in initial answer.

        1. miro*

          It encompasses contractors, freelancers, consultants etc. I think it’s a pretty standard designation used as an umbrella term for various temporary, contract/fixed-term things.

          So for the purposes of this article, the fact that they’re temporary and easy to not renew means that the stakes in terms of family member drama are significantly lower than a FT/staff position

      2. Mockingjay*

        In Federal contracting, it’s an non-binding offer of employment. Usually it’s dependent on something yet to happen: using your resume for a bid, waiting for contract award, then staffing the work using those resumes in a hurry. You aren’t obligated to take the position if offered, even if they used your resume in the proposal.

        Non-contracting world: Could also be a ‘sweetener’ to entice a hire: “Jackson, we’re happy you accepted our offer and will relocate to New City. We might have a spot in Accounting for your wife in a few months if Bob retires, but can’t guarantee a slot.”

    3. Me*

      Not even a hint of a case. Contingent employees aren’t really employees of the company. They are typically freelancers under a contract or on a temporary basis. It’s comparing apples to oranges. Not to mention a policy allowing family members is not necessarily allowing partners or members of the same household.

        1. TootsNYC*

          So a business is likely to use that term correctly.

          It’s always a guess what an individual writer thinks the term means, and so hopefully they’re using it correctly. But I would bet that it’s being used correctly here.

    4. Cat Tree*

      It’s not illegal to treat different employees differently, unless it is based on a legally protected characteristic. This manager could go out tomorrow and hire both people in a marriage into full time positions, while still declining to interview OP’s partner, and there would still be no legal issue here. (It certainly wouldn’t be good management, but OP is asking about legal recourse and there just isn’t any.)

        1. Cat Tree*

          Yes, there are cases where it could be the best decision for management. I only meant that bad management isn’t illegal by itself.

    5. Nataliegae*

      Aside from the possibilities other people have mentioned – they don’t actually need a policy to say no here! Companies can do things without a super specific policy written out covering every possible variable. As has been noted, the LW’s intense personalization and fury are pretty big hints as to why their manager might have decided not to even interview their partner.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Regardless the policy says that they can hire relatives, not that they have to hire relatives!

    6. Colette*

      There’s no case, because the company can hire whoever they want (unless they are illegally discriminating, which this is not). They can not hire the OP’s partner because they don’t like her or because her hair is the wrong colour or because she used the wrong font in her resume. Or they can not hire her because it would cause business issues (e.g. she’d be the OP’s backup but they will probably want to be on vacation at the same time so that won’t work or other applicants are a better match or they are concerned that they’re seeing performance problems with the OP and don’t want to complicate things).

      1. Blisskrieg*

        Agreed. I used the word “case” but should have used a different word that doesn’t have legal connotations. I meant case just in the sense of having a (germ of a grain of a) valid argument. Based on all the clarifications regarding “contingent” employee, she doesn’t even have that.

    7. Observer*

      : “I know my company has hired contingent employees who also were family members of my coworkers and had the same supervisor. I don’t know if they all lived under the same house.” That’s the only thing that gives me pause to think that the OP might have the germ of a case

      Why? What di you see here that could be a case? What legal category would be implicated here?

      1. Blisskrieg*

        see above–I clarified I do not mean legal case. I agree she does not have a legal case.

        “Agreed. I used the word “case” but should have used a different word that doesn’t have legal connotations. I meant case just in the sense of having a (germ of a grain of a) valid argument. Based on all the clarifications regarding “contingent” employee, she doesn’t even have that.”

  24. EPLawyer*

    OP, your … intense … reaction to your partner not getting interveiwed is exactly why hiring couples to work together is a bad idea. You are overreacting to what you see as “unfair” treatment of your partner already. You have demonstrated you could not get your relationship out of the work place.

  25. Vox Experientia*

    for the person who’s partner wasn’t interviewed for the position – as others have stated, your letter aptly demonstrates why it’s a terrible idea to hire relatives. if your manager were to read your letter here, they would be completely vindicated and feel like they dodged a bullet by not bringing in your partner. they certainly avoided future drama, and possible litigation, just judging by your response.

    1. Batgirl*

      The thing is, it’s just a job application! Who expects that to automatically go anywhere anyway? They’re all lotteries. A big reason for OP to never, ever say anything is because it sounds like both OP and partner thought recommendation meant “shoo in”. Which is all kinds of wrong. While I hope that’s just a mistaken impression, it definitely comes across as “do you know who I am” and nobody wants to hire that guy.

  26. Former call centre worker*

    I met my partner at work. Initially we were 2 people in a very large department who didn’t really cross paths much, but over time the team shrank and our roles got more similar until eventually he was sitting at the desk behind mine working on the same stuff. Honestly, it wasn’t ideal as he has a very different approach from me at work, to put it mildly, and I think we got on each other’s nerves quite a lot. I also didn’t like being viewed as “X’s partner” instead of an individual in my own right, as he’d been there longer and is more outgoing.

    OP, even apart from the apparent issues with unnecessary resentment and what happens if you split up and all that, you should also think about whether it would really be good for your relationship to work that closely together.

  27. LBugging*

    Depending on the size of my team, one minor but not insignificant inconvenience is as simple as not wanting 2 people to always be asking for the same weeks of vacation

    1. EmmaPoet*

      Exactly. I’m a librarian, and even if the spouses/partners were in different departments of our branch, we’d still have two people out in bad weather, vacation leave, possibly sick leave. That would be a big problem for us, because we’re perennially short-staffed to begin with, like most libraries. If one partner worked at Teapot Branch and the other worked at Llama Branch, then that wouldn’t matter.

  28. Quickbeam*

    Whew, there’s a lot of anger in that letter. My very old company encourages family hires but only in a different division under a different manager. They would not in any circumstances allow a couple to be on the same team. That said there are people with 5 or six family members working at the company.

    I am not sure why the partner couldn’t apply to other openings, just not on your team. In my management life, no way would I want a married couple/established partners on the same team. Even if just for the likelihood they’d want to same time off every year and create a coverage hole.

    1. TootsNYC*

      they might not qualify for other openings. There may be only one department that uses those skills. People often end up marrying or partnering with people they met at school or at work, so it’s not uncommon to have a couple where both are accountants. So there’s only one department that es accountants–where else would you apply in the company?

      Or their experience may be strongest in this area, and though they’d qualify for other departments, they’d be a far weaker candidate.

    2. UKDancer*

      My company takes the same approach. Relations and people in relationships don’t work on the same team. So Faramir (who works for me in teapot manufacture) in is engaged to Eowyn who works in cup and saucer team. She would not able to go for a job in our team in teapot manufacture while he’s there and vice versa and I would not interview her for a job here for that reason unless Faramir moved elsewhere. It’s also clear that if you get into a relationship with someone in the same team one of you needs to move.

      I work in a large company so there’s enough flexibility to ensure people in relationships don’t work in the same place. I can see it’s a lot more difficult in a small company to have the same distance.

      1. wendelenn*

        Preparing the teapots and the cups and saucers for the tea served in the Houses of Healing, I’m sure. :)

        1. UKDancer*

          Ha ha yes. I was rereading Lord of the Rings at the weekend so the names stuck in my mind. Hence the pseudonyms.

  29. jessie j*

    My very small company has 80% couples, including the owners. It’s a mess. I wish my company had boundaries like the LW’s manager.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      My office (under 20 employees) at one time had 4 sets of family relations; including parent/adult child, spouses, and in one case parent/teenager.

      Honestly we only had one issue that I was aware of and it was more of a culture clash than family dynamic (although family dynamic factored into it).

      It can be done, and can work, but it’s very much up to the individuals involved and each case was evaluated separately. I had a father/son combo reporting to me where I had hired the son. I had individual talks with both about how they thought that dynamic would work, what they would do when faced with normal office conflict, and how they would interact with the other team members.

      I did this upfront, which was good, because I was then grilled on the same topics by my HR (as they should) before making an offer.

      I can say it worked out in all of the cases even the one I mentioned where there was an issue.

      All that being said, I would have passed on the OP’s partner in a heartbeat, based on this letter (and what I suspect is indicative of previous reactions).

      1. Hillary*

        I once worked at a small business that had a ton of relationships. We had a parent/child combo, two brothers, both the brothers’ wives, and various cousins. The number two originally got his interview because his wife mentioned to the owner that her fiance was moving to town and needed work. The IT guy was a business partner’s kid (and great at his job). Everyone got along and it worked, but it would have gone incredibly sideways if the personal relationships went sour.

        We had one terrible day where funerals generated a huge coverage issue. The parent/child combo were out for a family funeral, the woman at the other workstation in that cell understandably wanted to attend the funeral to support her friend. I was the backup, but I was out that morning for a different funeral. We powered through it, but it raised the coverage issue. As they’ve grown they’ve both diversified and done more cross-training.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          Decades ago an entire branch I worked for attended a funeral for the branch manager’s young spouse. We just hired one of the employee’s spouses to cover the phones for the morning. It’s doable.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      Meh, it can work. You just have to take the “we’re like a faaaaammmmily” mindset and yeet it right out the door.

      This is a professional place of business. Not a weekend BBQ.

    3. Paris Geller*

      I think I would feel so weird if I was in the other 20%, even if all the couples were the height of professionalism!

  30. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Step back from this anger. Literally give yourself a day, or two, or three where it’s not a topic of conversation in your house or in your head. Distract yourself when it arises, do some complex tasks or engage your partner in whatever fun activities you enjoy together.

    The trick is, with a bit of distance you gain hindsight, and the hindsight will probably be ‘why was I so angry at something that couldn’t be made any better BY that anger? It’s actually not that big a deal’ (not getting a specific job is something that occurs all the time).

    You can’t change this. To try to do so would harm your career. Your partner can find a job elsewhere. There’s no fight to be had.

    (Lest I’m accused of platitudes; I’m schizophrenic. I’ve got a LOT of experience in diverting myself away from thoughts that seem very important but are actually destructive if followed)

    1. Allypopx*

      I’m hoping this submission is therapeutic for OP in exactly this way. They got it all off their chest, Alison usually doesn’t post things immediately so hopefully a little time has passed, and now they have a clearer head and can move on – and maybe get a strong outside perspective on how they come off to others in this state! I hope it all works out for the best.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I hope so too. In my cases spilling out my anger just gave my obsession a focal point and made it worse. Not going into details but my brain (unmedicated) has been convinced I’ve been done a terrible wrong and that any revenge would be right.

        (Never done anything criminal. Much, much better after help in the late 1990s)

    2. Health Insurance Nerd*

      This is really such a thoughtful and kind comment, I hope the LW sees it and takes it to heart.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Made some absolute grade A cock ups in my life. I’d like to not see anyone else follow my footsteps!

  31. Not So Super-visor*

    I’ve had to make the same call as this manager here, and I absolutely stand behind it for all of the reasons that Alison lists. My company also hires a lot of family members, but it’s never people who live in the same household. I’m a great example of that. I applied for my position before and was turned down because my husband was working for the company at the time. Even though he worked in a totally different department, the manager kindly explained that they don’t like to have people in a relationship working at the same facility. I was a bit miffed at the time, but I reapplied once my husband was no longer working here. Once I got here and learned about some of the past drama, it become clear why they were taking that stance.

  32. Cat Tree*

    The way referrals work, you can suggest the person’s name, but your involvement stops there. You don’t get to suddenly be involved in the hiring process just because you know the person. In fact, you need to make an effort to NOT be involved to avoid bias (or the appearance of bias). Qualified people with fantastic resumes apply to jobs and don’t get an interview. It happens all the time and is just part of the job search process.

    I wonder though, what if your partner got an interview but not an offer? Would you still have felt betrayed then? Or if he got an offer, but for less money than you were expecting?

    A referral doesn’t mean someone automatically gets the job.

  33. pcake*

    From the OP’s letter, they’re taking this so personally that it’s frankly bizarre. The intensity of reaction to the partner not getting an interview is so strong as to seem very outside of both business and personal norms. No boss or company is obligated to interview anyone. As far as discrimination, here’s the definition: “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex”. Discrimination doesn’t happen against a single person. Here’s the U.S. list of groups one might discriminate against https://www.eeoc.gov/discrimination-type

    My husband and I played in several bands together, and we were an extreme rarity because we made it work. I mention this because usually playing in bands with a couple is a horrible pain in the butt. If there’s a musical decision, they tend to take each others’ side even if they don’t agree, and that’s bad for the music and band morale. If they have problems at home, most people can’t help but bring it to band practice or shows – even the ones who believe firmly they’re leaving it at home. If one wants to fire a musician to replace with a friend, the other backs them

    We made it work because we never acted or thought like partners during anything band-related. I trusted him to disagree with me the same way as he disagreed with any band member, and he trusted me to do the same. We never backed each other because we’re both adults with our own opinions who can speak for ourselves. Also, and this relates the the OP, I did not take anything personally nor did he, ever.

  34. Dr. Rebecca*

    I’m in a profession where it’s often *expected* that spouses work for the same company/department (see: academia–trailing spouse/two body problem), and it *still* doesn’t go well all the time. Or most of the time.

    1. Rock Prof*

      Academia is full of this! Couples meet in graduate school and then try to find jobs together, often where they do fairly similar stuff. We have one couple, who have no problems working together, are super professional, and have different names so students don’t even realize they’re married, but have really out-sized power differentials: one is tenured faculty and the other is a contingent lecturer. It’s been used as a bargaining chip by some administraters to basically keep them both in line, which seems so shady.
      I’ve also known a wide variety of academic couples split up, which has literally led to small academic departments dissolving because they were something like 2/3 or 1/2 of the faculty in the program.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        Yup. Plus, departments vote on tenure and promotion, and you’re not supposed to vote if you have conflicts of interest, like…being married/partnered with the person being voted on, or co-editing/co-authoring/being on a grant with them. I looked at a department I was close to a few years ago, counted on my fingers, and realized that fully half the department was married to itself, and the other half would need to recuse themselves because of publications or grants.

      2. ThatGirl*

        We have friends who are in academia together – he’s a professor, she works in event planning. So they work in completely different departments, on a huge state school campus. And like you said, academia is full of that sort of thing. It’s a little different when you work on a campus with almost 50,000 students versus the same team or even building at a much smaller employer.

  35. Esmeralda*

    You might think it would work out well, OP, but allison is right that even the most professional and best intentioned couples find themselves in unexpected situations.

    Few people expect their marriage to end, but quite a few do. And not always amicably. And that can slop over into work. I’ve been working a long time — seen it, been affected by it, don’t ever want to deal with it ever again — but it’s likely to happen again before I retire….

    1. Esmeralda*

      Also, I do recognize that you said domestic partner and not spouse — but domestic partnerships are not immune to this. I do apologize for using the more exclusionary term,.

    2. EmmaPoet*

      I saw a post on Reddit recently where a couple who worked together split up because one person cheated. The cheated on spouse did a grand exposure of Cheat at a staff holiday party. Cheated On later stomped out of the building after quitting because Boss declined to fire Cheat for cheating (their couple drama had nothing to do with work, Cheat wasn’t involved with another staff member or anything. Cheat was an excellent worker, Cheated on was competent but not great.)
      Cheated On came back a few months later and wanted to be rehired, and Boss decided that the potential drama Cheated On was likely to cause again wasn’t worth it. Ze had sympathy for Cheated On, but considering this person had already made everyone at the holiday party uncomfortable because they wanted to humiliate their spouse in public, and when asking for rehire had told Boss that Cheat should be fired so Cheated On could come back, well, Boss felt that this wasn’t a can of worms ze wanted to open again.

      1. Batgirl*

        Also, when people cheat, they usually don’t scruple to cheat at work. Regardless of how close by their spouse is. I’m sure OP has no fears about this, and god willing, never will. But here’s betting the manager has seen it time and time again: the couple who can’t be around each other; the reconciled couple who want the third party banished; the betrayed person who can’t focus around the new couple, but can’t quit because buying out a home is expensive….

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          There was an incident at the first company I ever worked for that, frankly I’d think I’d hallucinated except multiple others were there. Identical twin sisters worked in the same department, one was married to the finance director.
          The other sister and he started an affair. It came out at an xmas party. All 3 of them lost their jobs in the end because the mood at work afterwards was 100% hate and 0% work.

          The reason I won’t work for the same place as my husband is that…well, Work Keymaster is a very different person to Home Keymaster and I prefer to keep her separate.

        2. EmmaPoet*

          When I opened up AAM just now, the Very First Post was from an assistant whose boss was setting up a “love nest” with a direct report. Just picture this if both of their spouses had worked at that firm. Yikes!

    3. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I also work in academia, and we had a husband/wife team running a program within my program. They mostly got along swimmingly. Not always, however. At times, this resulted in angry shouting in meetings in the conference room nearby that could be heard by the entire office. And I don’t mean just the two of them were in the conference room – I mean they were in there with their team, in a group meeting, SHOUTING at each other. It was paralyzingly awkward. They have both since moved on, and while I liked them a lot personally, I don’t miss the tension.

  36. SheLooksFamiliar*

    ‘I now feel stuck between continuing to work for someone who did this to me and keeping my home life stable.’

    Oh, no, OP, please stop. Your boss didn’t do anything to you or your partner. S/he made a business decision…

    …and it looks like it was a good decision. Your partner isn’t even an employee and a fair yet unpopular decision at work has ‘destabilized your home life.’ I shudder to imagine how volatile things could get if you were both employed at the same company, never mind if you work for the same manager.

  37. I'm just here for the cats*

    One thing that stood out for me (besides the obvious aggression) is that the LW states “I know my company has hired contingent employees who also were family members of my coworkers and had the same supervisor. I don’t know if they all lived under the same house.”
    Hiring a relative, like a brother or a niece, is completely different than hiring a partner. When you are married there is a whole different dynamic at play than with other relationships.

    Perhaps there is an unwritten rule that the company will take family members but not spouses/partners. Or maybe the manager has had spouses on the same team and it turned out badly. Also everything else Alison said.

  38. Just another lurker*

    When I was much younger, I tried to get my husband a job where I was working. They did consider it, but ultimately decided not to give him an interview. Things were a little awkward afterward and his feelings were a bit hurt (it was an arts organization and we all knew each other). I handled it by pretending nothing happened at all until everything blew over.

    Fast forward about 12 years or so, and my husband and I both have very distinct, separate, and established careers. I’m glad we don’t work together and I’m glad that job didn’t work out back then.

  39. On the Flip Side*

    So I’ve been in the same boat as OP. During the Great Recession, my husband lost his job, and we were young (25), broke, and desperate. A job came up in a completely different department, and my husband applied and was given an interview. They were 100% aware that this was my husband. According to my husband (and the hiring manager that I talked to after the fact), the interview went great and they wanted to offer him the job. They went to HR to get confirmation on the offer, and the HR manager immediately called my husband and told him that he wasn’t eligible because I worked there. I remember being furious. We ended up having to move out of state for a new job for him and in with my dad while we got back on our feet. I remember being incredibly resentful of the whole situation and made it pretty well known when I put in my notice to follow my husband out of state.
    After we got through all of the hard stuff, it turned out to be an incredibly good thing. I was stuck in a job where I was being underpaid, overworked, and there was no room for growth. I hated my job, but I felt too scared by the unemployment rate to leave. When we moved out of state, I was able to get a much better job that propelled me to much better things in my career.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*

      I can absolutely understand being furious in this scenario. Not hiring your spouse for a role completely unrelated to yours in an entirely different department after they interviewed well with the hiring manager seems unfair and shortsighted.

      I’m glad that time and distance gave you a new perspective and outlook!

      1. EchoGirl*

        I agree. Letting it get that far to where the person has serious reason to believe they’ll be hired and then yanking the rug out from under them based on something that was known for the entire interview process is different than what happened in OP’s case, where they declined to interview at all.

  40. I should really pick a name*

    “There wouldn’t be a conflict of interest since I would not be his supervisor”
    This could still be a conflict of interest. You could still give each other preferential treatment when working together on projects, one could push back if the other is disciplined, if there is a disagreement with another co-worker, you may automatically take each other’s side.

    “The company’s policy for employment of relatives ironically starts with being committed to having a policy of hiring based solely on qualifications and merit”
    This means that they will try to avoid nepotism. It means that someone won’t be hired just because they’re related to someone else. It doesn’t mean ignoring the ramifications of having a romantic couple on the same team.

    1. Elaine Benes*

      Thank you for the second paragraph- that pinged me too. It’s not ironic! It’s very logical! Nepotism is not great.

  41. Des*

    I was literally going to say something about it before I reached this part of Alison’s letter:

    “Based on the aggressively adversarial stance you took in your letter, I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss already sees you as something of a problem.”

    THIS. There’s a good chance that the manager managing the OP already knows very well that there will be no scrupulous professionalism based on past experience.

    OP you are way off base thinking this is an unusual decision for a manager to make. The fact that you are apparently having to “[keep your] home life stable” after a partner was refused an interview should tell you that your partner will also not be an easy person to work with for anyone: your manager, your coworkers, and even yourself! (How is your partner already making your home life unstable?)

  42. D3*

    I have to wonder if OP maybe over-promised her partner that they would get the job. That they would be a shoo-in. That OP would pull strings and make it happen.
    And then.
    OP got a shock of reality. They don’t really have string-pulling ability. They cannot make those promises happen.
    And combined with the potentially abusive partner (in a healthy relationship, not getting an interview would not be something that needs work to keep home life stable!) this might have been really upsetting.

    1. Allypopx*

      Red flags about the relationship are definitely in the text, but even if the relationship is relatively healthy this could still be the case – and OP could just be embarrassed and reacting out of proportion. In either case, yeah it sucks, but you gotta move on.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think that’s a bit of a stretch to say that there is abuse in the relationship. The OP says that the partner is angry with the excuse they were given. I think the recruiter may have handled the situation badly, and now they are angry.
      All the OP says is keeping home life stable. That could mean anything, such as the partner is out of work and finances are tight and stress is high.

      1. Deanna Troi*

        It doesn’t sound like they were given an excuse, though – the recruiter seems to have given them the actual reason. And I’m curious as to why you think the recruiter handled it badly. What do you think they should have done instead?

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          The LW says that it was an excuse that they live together. I think, at least how the LW makes it sound, that the recruiter said it in a weird way. Oh you live in the se house as LW. Not oh, company policy is they don’t want members who are partners on the same team. At least that’s how it seems. But we are getting this 2nd hand from probably not so good of a source so I could be wrong with the recruiter. But I don’t see abuse

      2. Batgirl*

        I’m hoping it’s just bad phrasing but saying that the choice is between staying in the job and stability at home = quitting is required to keep home life stable. Which is worrying.

    3. Courageous cat*

      I think we gotta stop speculating on letters today. There’s a lot of it going on, and we don’t need to try to crack the code of why OP is angry, imo. She needs to stop no matter what the context is.

  43. [insert witty username here]*

    I’m also a bit surprised that OP didn’t float this by their supervisor before just referring their SO and having them apply. I could see some situations where you might not give your supervisor a head’s up, but your SO? On your team? Reporting to the same person? I would think OP would have mentioned to their supervisor “hey, I know we’re looking for another llama groomer and my SO has extensive llama grooming experience, so I’m going to have them apply!” It seems like they didn’t want to be told NOT to have the SO apply and just went ahead and did it, hoping it wouldn’t come up until they were already well into the process.

    1. Choggy*

      You actually have a great point there, and in a conspiracy-theorist vein, wonder if it was not on purpose just to see what would happen. If I knew a great person, who ticked all the boxes, why wouldn’t I talk them up to my supervisor to give them a leg up in the process? Something does not quite smell right here.

  44. Kobayashi*

    I know how normal and easy it is to have such an emotional reaction to the rejection of your spouse’s application – but your reaction, in my opinion, completely validates your company’s decision. Given how you’ve reacted to them not considering your husband for the position — they’ve made the right call. It only gets messier after hire when it comes to two spouses working for the same employer. If you can’t have an objective reaction to this decision, you won’t be able to have an objective reaction to other decisions (such as discipline, layoff/termination, your spouse not being promoted, etc.)

  45. Not my usual name*

    I work in an industry where it is considered very normal to work with your spouse/partner. In fact, my last job sometimes purposely preferred partner teams where they could share a hotel room so that the company could profit off of the unused hotel room. (The role we were hiring for consists of lots of travel and spending lots of time together – yes this industry is one that is highly impacted by COVID) I do realize that is not the norm and there are plenty of stories as to why hiring couples is a bad idea. However, I will say that while I was at my old job, we did have great experiences with hiring couples and I attribute it to these reasons:

    1 – We only hired couples who have previously worked together in the past for extended periods of time. In their application materials, they had to state how long they have worked together in total and duration of project/projects worked together.

    2 – At the interview, we asked what roles each person liked to take on regarding a project. Who is more of the planner? Who will do X task? Who will do Y task?

    3 – We asked how disagreements are handled in the business relationship. How do they overcome Specific Scenario Challenge? What makes you work well as a team? What can you improve on as a team?

  46. Cat Tree*

    I had another thought. It’s quite possible that the partner isn’t fully qualified for the position, or the resume isn’t as great as OP thinks. Maybe there were just multiple more-qualified applicants, and the manager used the household thing to avoid saying that the partner just isn’t right for the job. I wonder if OP would feel less aggrieved if the stated reason was just lack of qualifications. I’m guessing no.

    1. Allypopx*

      OP seems convinced the SO was perfect for this position, so I don’t think any “excuse” would have been palatable.

    2. PT*

      We had an incident where I worked where a mid-20s part-timer who was unqualified for a full-time managerial job due to their temperament was passed over, and told the reason was experience/maturity. The passed-over person took this to mean “you’re too young,” and it caused nothing but trouble when the new manager showed up and was younger than that person.

      Sometimes people misinterpret polite excuses into something completely different.

      1. Allypopx*

        Oof. “Mature” is definitely one of those words that can mean a bunch of different things – and it gets awkward when you interpret it wrong.

        I have a feeling that’s similar to what happened here, in that OP interpreted “sometimes managers hire family for certain positions” as “my partner and I working permanently on the same team is no issue.”

  47. Jennifer*

    Please take the advice to heart, especially the last 2 paragraphs. I was very taken aback by the aggressive tone of your letter. Even if your partner was interviewed, there is no guarantee they would have been hired. You seemed to think it was a done deal. I think your boss is already struggling managing you, and hiring someone else in your home would have just multiplied the problem.

  48. President Porpoise*

    I’m going to take a slightly different read on OP’s last sentence. OP, are you saying that right now, your home life is unstable because your partner is not employed, and you were hoping for a quick solution? I understand desperation, and the devastating emotional impact a job rejection can have when it comes from a known entity who has awareness of your personal struggles. Given the current economic situation we’re all living in, it doesn’t seem far fetched that you are in a precarious financial situation and your partner is un/underemployed, your boss has some awareness of this, and you were hoping that your partner – who you believe to be qualified and a good employee – would be hired in an act of professional courtesy/compassion towards you and your situation. It doesn’t usually happen that way, sadly, but I can understand the anger you are showing if that’s the case. It’s a hard thing.

    Chin up. Your partner has good qualifications, and there will be something, somewhere, that they can get. It might not be the best option, but it will be serviceable. Look at things in the best light, and it will make a dark time a little brighter. I wish you both happiness and success.

  49. Choggy*

    I enjoy having that separation of work/private life, could not imagine having to work with my SO and live with them too! Definitely seems like the anger is misplaced, so many companies have explicit policies around this because of the potential problems, but they should also be clear and be followed by all. I think there is also a difference between hiring family members (especially not living in the same house), and those who are in a relationship/dating, though both aren’t great. If you can prove that two people who are dating are working for the same supervisor (either before or after hiring) you *may* have a case, but is it really worth it?

    1. Here we go again*

      Distant cousins are completely different than romantic partners. I worked great with my husband’s cousin. The only conflict was rare when we’d both need a day off at the same time for family events. But it worked out.

  50. Team Tom*


    I’m going to take a guess that you and your partner tend to be literalists. You looked at the employee handbook (or equivalent) about family members being referred/hired by your company, and other similar situations that have cropped up, and expected result A and when result B happened you were blindsided.

    I have a coworker who is relatively new to the workforce and frequently she’ll vent about something that I, thanks to this blog, know is completely normal. I explain it to her and she gets it and moves on. This is one of them. If not for this blog I wouldn’t know that it’s not Conflict of Interest that makes it a Bad Idea for family members to get hired in the same company, it’s just *part* of what makes it a bad idea. If you’ve never seen/heard the horror stories, then you simply don’t know what you don’t know. And if you’ve seen/read something that *seems* to contradict the reason you were given, then yeah! You’re surprised and think it could be something nefarious! But it’s not, and you should simply reflect on Allison’s advice (and then troll through the archives here because there are some really doozy stories lying about).

    My bet is that other people *have* come across the situation you have: they employed a partner who was turned down because they would’ve been on the same team. But unless you live in a SUPER gossipy workplace, that wouldn’t necessarily make its way to your ears. Also! It could even be a relatively new policy after they discovered that hiring people in the same family doesn’t always work out very well. (My husband’s old office had quite a few employees who were related to other employees and it wasn’t always an unmitigated disaster, but it always made things weirder/harder in unexpected ways).

    And if your partner is upset, I would recommend telling him to start reading this blog as well. Seriously, one or two good ‘Here’s how it can go wrong so fast’ and it’ll completely shift your thinking. But also if you work for a large company, you may want to reach out to someone on clarification of the policy in case positions open up on other teams (though personally I feel like working with your partner isn’t a great idea, in a large company it may not be the worst thing).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is great advice. Time to reset expectations, OP. The disappointments are too low and that’s not good.

      Do I agree with all the norms that exist today? Absolutely NOT. But I can benefit from knowing what the norms are so that when normal happens, I am not caught by surprise.

      I’d like to add that maybe once you see norms clearly articulated this might lead you to finding out that your place is not the great place it seemed to be from the outside.

  51. Donut Lady*

    OP, I encourage you to hear Alison’s perspective on this one. Everything she says is SPOT ON.

    I once dated a coworker who was on my team. We assumed everything was going to be fine because we were mature professionals who valued our jobs. We made a pact that any feelings we had towards each other, be them positive or negative, would be kept outside of the workplace. This was absolutely delusional thinking. We ended up having a messy breakup, and despite our efforts it seeped into our work. Our manager, who didn’t know that we dated (although I’m sure he had his suspicions), pulled each of us aside to acknowledge the tension and strongly suggested that we snap out of it. We eventually got to a place where we could be friendly towards each other at work, but that took a lot of effort to maintain, and the whole situation contributed to me leaving a job that I otherwise would have stayed in for much longer.

    I am ENTIRELY sympathetic to the fact that your manager doesn’t want to knowingly introduce that dynamic into his team.

    1. Using a different name today*

      I had to fire an employee’s MOTHER once. Please no more related employees!!

  52. Seeking Second Childhood*

    This totally misses MY reason that your manager’s response SHOULD be different this year: the pandemic. Your company would be better off having every employee in different households to reduce the chance that non-work exposure means they lose to employees to quarantine.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Although, if the household is taking appropriate precautions, it would actually be safer to have people from fewer households coming into the workplace.

  53. DinoGirl*

    On point advice. We have literally had a discussion about not hiring a significant other because not only were they not very qualified, but it seemed like employee was pushing it more than the candidate cared about the job, AND the employee was such a problem we didn’t want to bring in someone else who might add to that. It all felt bizarre and from this letter I’d imagine something similarly bizarre is going on there.

  54. Legal Ramifications... for What Again?*

    I don’t think I see anything in the response, and a couple quick searches didn’t show anything obvious in the comments, so I’m wondering if I’m the only one here seeing “domestic partner”, “discriminated against”, and “legal ramifications” and thinking that there’s concern here about specifically not hiring the partner due to queerness?

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with all of the points why not to hire a partner, I’m just surprised at how little I see touching on that given how many employers are happy to find ways to care about that specific detail. Maybe it’s just to emphasize all the other points about why it’s still a bad idea? I guess I’d be curious to better understand what types of “family members” are being hired. I’d still agree that hiring partners is generally bad, but I’d totally get it if someone were this furious (and if it stirred up household feelings like described) if the issue was that hetero spouses were being hired on, but then a seemingly perfectly qualified queer person were dismissed just on the basis of living with an existing worker.

    Am I just the odd one out for reading that? Did my brain skip over something that completely negates this possibility? It still wouldn’t be a good response, and that definitely warrants some firm shutting down, but I’d certainly imagine approaching this from a different angle being more effective if those details are adding up to the picture that first came to my mind.

    1. Allypopx*

      There’s a quick comment upthread by Hugga Bunch Stan that brings it up, so it’s not just you and I can understand why that alarm bell would go off in your mind. But given the overall tone of the letter I don’t think that’s the issue, and I think “discrimination” is being used as a scary buzzword that makes the OP feel in the right, not a legitimate complaint.

      Also I do think the manager would still have a very strong case either way, especially if, as Alison points out, this is already a problematic employee.

    2. Choggy*

      I alluded to the same in my post, but did not specifically mention orientation, the OP did not mention dating couples specifically, but family members and not necessarily those living in the same household. The OP should read the company policies around this, my company used to hire interns who were the sons/daughters of employees, and they worked in the same department. This really did not work out well if the son/daughter did not have an interest in the specific business area, and well, familial relationships. Now the company only hires interns who are majoring in an area directly relevant to our organization/business area, and none of them are related to employees. It’s worked out so much better since some have even been hired as full time employees once they graduate.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I didn’t notice that. I was distracted by the wild, over-the-top anger and line about not hiring the partner causing an unstable home life which screams some sort of abuse inside the home.

      Also I do by default assume the all LW’s are female unless the letter shows otherwise so when the partner was given male pronouns that created a heterosexual couple in my mind.

    4. Observer*

      I don’t think I see anything in the response, and a couple quick searches didn’t show anything obvious in the comments, so I’m wondering if I’m the only one here seeing “domestic partner”, “discriminated against”, and “legal ramifications” and thinking that there’s concern here about specifically not hiring the partner due to queerness?

      You are not the only one who thought of this. But the stuff you mention actually leads in the opposite direction. It’s just incredibly implausible that someone who is complaining about discrimination and thinking of legal action would neglect to mention a high profile reason for illegal discrimination while suggesting that they were discriminated against for living in the same household.

  55. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

    I’m very concerned about OP’s well-being. The last sentence of the letter about keeping the home life stable worries me.

    OP: How will your SO react to you not quitting or doing anything about this? Do you feel a sense of relief that they didn’t get the job, but know that you can’t act that way because your SO will lash out? Only you can recognize if the situation you’re in is dangerous to your health.

    There are resources available. This is a link to a domestic violence help site: https://www.thehotline.org/

    Note for anyone: If you want to access the site safely, go to your local public library. Remember, even if you go incognito or invisible, certain software can still track websites you go to.

    1. Allypopx*

      Thank you for sharing those resources!

      This is a legitimate concern but I’m inclined to wonder if it’s something less nefarious – unemployment can make relationships/households/mental health/interpersonal relationships rocky, and it sounds like this was a big unexpected disappointment. Still, I do hope the OP is safe and can use these resources if they’re not.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Sincerely hope that the partner’s anger isn’t directed to the OP, but this is a good resource if it is.

      A reminder from someone who’s been through some horrific stuff: anger at a situation like unemployment, financial trouble is normal. Directing that anger at a person is NOT. Anger should be productive, a call to reason out what you CAN do to resolve or help a situation (‘maybe I could apply for jobs outside my area’, ‘I can make a plan to bring in some money some other way’).

      If you, or a loved one, Is using that anger to hurt another (‘this is all YOUR fault!’) it’s time to seek help.

  56. Here we go again*

    When I was in high school working at a pizza place I had the opposite problem my boss hired my boyfriend at the time against my recommendation. Two months later he was fired then I broke up with him. I probably would’ve broke up with him sooner if he wasn’t hired. I worked their for two years after that.

  57. Rebaroo*

    I had a manager that said he questioned the judgement of couples that want to work that closely together. He said the majority of people in healthy relationships wouldn’t consider it. He considered the reasons people would want to do this is a) unhealthy dynamic like jealousy or control or b) partner struggles to find work elsewhere and may lean on partner for help.
    I mostly agree. I worked with my husband for a bit (hard to fill part time role) and it was ok, but definitely not something I reccomend.

  58. Sharrbe*

    “My SO is also angry at my company for their lame excuses for not even interviewing him.”

    Yeah, that right there. You’re not supposed to be angry at not getting a job interview. Disappointed, yes, but angry, no. That shows an astonishing amount of entitlement.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Upset can manifest as anger or as major disappointment. I worked on training my brain to cut to the disappointment stage and skip the anger stage. It’s not always easy.

      OP, part of your solution maybe just to sit down and cry. Your situation sucks. There’s a pandemic raging, everyone in the country is raging, there’s lots of raging going on. Top it all off, your other half is out of work.
      Lots of anger and not much money is a bad mix. It’s a skip, hop and a jump to being in PO’ed mode.

      Take the accelerants away. if the times were better, if you could see a few other places your partner could apply at, would that change your response here? These are little self-check questions I do on my own self, when I start to feel a huge reaction building inside me. One of the things I tell myself is “Is this worth having a heart attack over?” I watched my father get really upset like this and, yep, sure enough. He had a severe heart attack plus probably some other less severe heart events. He ended up having bypass surgery back in the day when it was really a barbaric treatment. Between the anger and the nastiness of that surgery I am not sure why he lived- his life was brutally rough.

  59. pleaset cheap rolls*

    I was reading this and at first thought “Partner applied in a big company – yeah skip the phone screen and interview out of courtesy.” But then I saw they’d be on the same team. No way. No way.

  60. Sharrbe*

    “My SO is also angry at my company for their lame excuses for not even interviewing him.”

    Yeah, that right there. You’re not supposed to be angry at not getting a job interview. Disappointed, yes, but angry, no. That shows an astonishing amount of entitlement. Including the LW use of the word “lame”.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Respectfully, I’d like to say we can’t tell people what their emotions should be. I have seen this written a few times here, people telling OP that they should not be angry.

      Well emotions happen regardless of what people think the rules are. And people end up in therapy for the mind-bending problem of having emotions that they supposedly should not have. (Two layers of complexity, the emotion itself and the weight of “breaking the rules about emotions.”)

      Emotions themselves are not wrong, OP. It’s just a feeling inside an individual. It hurts no one, except maybe the person experiencing the emotion. The tricky part is when we use our emotions to guide our actions. That’s when some problems can start.

      Set up a punching bag in the living room, OP. Get some gloves and do a few rounds. This is good use of anger- getting some exercise and dissipating/weakening the strength of the anger. I had a cohort who ran five miles every night after work because that is what it took to break up all the anger he had picked up during the day.

      1. Batgirl*

        I agree that emotions are never wrong, but the forerunning entitlement and resulting conclusions certainly can be. Thinking “Wow I seem to be all kinds of angry? Over a job I was never owed. Odd, but that’s emotions for you. What can I do to chill?” is one thing whereas “This righteous anger is a result of prejudice against couples, where do I lawyer up?” is quite another…

  61. Anonymeece*


    OP, Alison is absolutely right.

    I hired a married couple once, but on the condition they worked in separate areas, on different teams, and they even worked different times (I actually didn’t insist on the last point, because I figured they would want to carpool, but they did!). Having a partner on the same team, even if you aren’t their supervisor, is skirting “conflict of interest” pretty hard for all the reasons Alison brought up. Even if you got along fabulously, there’s a chance that you could become “cliquey” with your partner and isolate other team members unknowingly.

    The anger you’re showing toward this is alarming, and I would definitely take a step back and consider why you’re having this strong of a reaction to a decision that makes sense.

  62. Delta Delta*

    I read the title, which is “I’m furious that my boss refused to interview my partner.” I read the question, wondering when we’d get to the “furious” part or why someone would be “furious” about this. I understand “disappointed,” or “irritated,” but “furious” feels like quite the leap to take. I’ve got no idea what’s going on here with all this, but I suggest the OP figure out why this makes her furious and address that particular problem.

    1. Allypopx*

      To be fair, Alison typically writes the titles – but I’d say furious is a fair assessment of how the OP is presenting their feelings.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I thought I recalled that Alison often uses the email subject line for titles, but you’re right – maybe “furious” isn’t OP’s word.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I almost never use email subject lines for titles since they’re usually “question” or similar.

          I wrote “furious” because I think it captures the situation.

  63. PersephoneUnderground*

    Yeah, chain of command would be conflict of interest, but plenty of companies are uncomfortable with people on the same team in a relationship as well. Cross-department, sure, but working directly together can be complicated.

  64. SJJ*

    “Are there legal ramifications or steps we can take to address this?”

    In the immortal words of Ron Burgandy – ‘Well, that escalated quickly.’

  65. Octo*

    OP, you’ve been getting some pretty tough love here, so I wanted to share some sympathy too. I had to move to a small town for work a few years ago. My employer is one of a tiny number within commuting distance that hires people with my spouse’s experience, and it’s common for both halves of a couple to work there. We were both desperate for him to get a job at my place, and devastated when he didn’t get one in my unit that had seemed like a good fit. In our case, we both felt as if my being there should have been a point in favor of his candidacy–if my employer cares about retaining me (a highly qualified, expensive-to-replace employee), they should want to remove barriers to that (spouse’s unemployment), right? Rationally, I would have understood and agreed with all of Alison’s points, but that didn’t stop either of us from feeling disappointed, angry, and even a little betrayed in the moment. Any time a job application doesn’t work out, it sucks, but it really, really sucks when you get your hopes up in the way you and I did.

    Here’s the thing, though: it’s okay to let yourself experience these emotions for a while, but then you’ve got to let them go as best you can. You know rationally that your boss has to do what they think is best for your workplace as a whole, so do your best to push past those negative feelings and keep looking for other opportunities for your partner elsewhere. Staying bitter won’t serve either of you in the end.

  66. A manager who's been there*

    I think most of Alison’s advice is spot-on with respect to the OP’s letter. I do see one sentence that makes me wonder if there’s more than one valid point of view here: “Two people on a team might start dating after they’re already been hired and managers just need to deal with that …”

    With respect, I suggest that if two people reporting to me start dating, I’m going to have all the same risks/problems I would have had if they had started dating before they came to work at my org. So I’d probably deal with that by finding an exit route for whichever employee was ready to move on.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes in my company if 2 people in a command chain start dating, they are expected to declare the relationship and one or other of them needs to move.

      So for example when one of my colleagues (Daisy) got into a relationship with another colleague (Lucy) one of them had to move. As it turned out a more senior job came up in another part of the company and Lucy was successful in going for that.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      I think this IS how they deal with it, though. Transfer one, find another role, etc. Inviting it in is a way different story.

  67. Nora*

    A buddy of mine took a shine to another person. My friend got this person a job on his team and they ended up sitting 10 feet apart from each other. They dated, it got messy, they split, it got worse, and the whole time they were sitting 10 feet apart from each other.

    It’s been a couple years but I think the other person ended up not just leaving the job but the state to get away from all of it.

    And that’s why hiring romantic partners is very often a bad idea.

  68. Elle by the sea*

    I can fully understand OPs reaction and don’t find it “weirdly” adversarial – they must be feeling emotional about this decision and we are humans with feelings after all. But that’s one of the reasons why I wouldn’t prefer to work with my SO. OPs boss has the right to not feel comfortable with this sort of setup, either.

    Once emotions infiltrate your professional life to that extent, trouble will follow – the fact that OP feels so strongly about that proves this point. Imagine if OPs partner was hired and they will share the same supervisor: it’s par for the course to receive negative or critical feedback, even more so when you are new to the job. Will OP feel infuriated whoever that happens?

    Furthermore, that’s still better than interviewing OPs partner while feeling extremely uncomfortable with the situation. Well, my partner got an interview at my previous workplace. To provide a little bit of background: I was regarded as a highly technically competent employee who is also popular with colleagues but is difficult to manage. We parted ways in a rather tempestuous fashion: don’t think of anything wildly unprofessional but I was fully direct and honest in my criticism towards their way of operation. So, I’m not exactly sure why, probably to make up for the underhanded things they used to do to me, they just felt compelled to interview my perfectly qualified partner. He went there, without any visible bias (we don’t mix personal and professional) and the interview was awkward and hostile beyond belief. I guess he dodged a bullet. So, I’m pretty sure OP and their SO is better off in the current situation.

    1. LGC*

      To be fair, Alison sometimes uses “weird” as a stand-in for words that may be…more blunt. I think that’s what’s going on here.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        Haha, well, yes, weird is indeed a suitable word as in it is an overreaction on OP’s part. But it’s not weird in the sense that it’s a pretty common type of overreaction.

    2. Batgirl*

      Job hunting sucks, and watching your partner job hunt is the same experience with extra powerlessness. I don’t think many people find the disappointment or even desperation weird or are disinclined to sympathise with that part. If OP had said something like “We really need this/it’s a blow/how can I present ourselves as professional while involved?” The response would have been very different. But, I completely agree with what you say; the emotions which would cause drama at work, are about to.. cause drama at work. We’re all just yelling at how entitled and adversarial it looks, so OP doesn’t do that. That would be bad.

  69. Mockingjay*

    In Federal contracting, it’s an non-binding offer of employment. Usually it’s dependent on something yet to happen: using your resume for a bid, waiting for contract award, then staffing the work using those resumes in a hurry. You aren’t obligated to take the position if offered, even if they used your resume in the proposal.

    Non-contracting world: Could also be a ‘sweetener’ to entice a hire: “Jackson, we’re happy you accepted our offer and will relocate to New City. We might have a spot in Accounting for your wife in a few months if Bob retires, but can’t guarantee a slot.”

  70. Former Retail Lifer*

    I think the OP is feeling some rage because they perceived discrimination: they’re a same sex couple that’s co-habitating and they think THAT’S the reason the partner was taken out of consideration. If they perceive that other partners in opposite sex relationships have been hired, I can see why they were initially upset and saw potential discrimination.

    However, even if that was part of the reason, which is unacceptable, there are a million and one perfectly acceptable reasons to decline to interview the partner. Previous commenters have outlined them already so there’s no need for a recap, but there are so many reasons OTHER than this potential slight.

    1. miro*

      I don’t think we have evidence that OP is in a same-sex relationship. Also, they don’t mention couples in opposite-sex relationships, just “family members” who may not have lived in the same house–that could mean couples, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that.
      (and if those family members weren’t couples and/or didn’t live together, that could explain some of the difference in treatment, along with those people being in temp positions and OP’s partner going for something permanent)

      1. Elle by the sea*

        The way OP talks about their domestic partner it’s pretty damn likely that they are a same sex couple. And that’s definitely something that can make such a situation harder to deal with.

        1. Carla*

          I don’t understand why it’s “pretty damn likely” that they’re a same-sex couple. Long-term unmarried opposite-sex couples are very common these days, and they often call themselves partners or domestic partners. There’s nothing in the letter that indicates the gender of the LW.

        2. Allypopx*

          A lot of heterosexual couples use “domestic partner” nowadays, I don’t know that it’s considerably more likely. But you’re right, that does make it more difficult.

          I will say that would make the read of the policy make sense. As someone who is often ready policies through the lens of anti-discrimination, “we hire based on merit” could very well convey the OP’s interpretation to someone reading with the same lens. In practice, my guess as a manager is that it was put there as an anti-nepotism policy.

          1. Elle by the sea*

            I already clarified this in a reply to Alison’s comment somewhere earlier in the comment section, so apologies if I repeat myself. Look, it’s not about the use of “domestic partner” and “SO”. It’s just the general vibe and wording of the letter – I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s just that I’ve heard people recount the exact same situation several times and people in same sex relationships described the situation in a slightly different manner than people in heterosexual relationships. An LGBT person myself (although I’m in a relationship with a man at the moment and hopefully forever), I’m pretty closely involved with the LGBT community, so I do have an instinct about these things, in case anyone would think I’m shooting in the dark. But of course, I could be terribly wrong. Only OP knows the truth. :)

            1. Allypopx*

              I get your point that a lot of language is just coded in a way that’s hard to clarify – but as an LGBT person who has dealt with a lot of employment issues, in this camp and otherwise, I’m not picking up the same vibe. And I tried to re-read it several times through that lens, I’m just not hearing it. I get much more of an entitled heterosexual woman (Karen) vibe, though I want to be kind to the OP and acknowledge that this letter was written in anger.

              It’s VERY hard to get tone from text, a lot of it ends up being how we translate things in our head and we end up projecting our experiences by doing that, so the fact you’ve known people who have experienced this could very well be coloring how you’re reading it. I think part of taking the OP at their word is assuming details that are *that* relevant would be included.

              1. Elle by the sea*

                Yeah, you have a point. I might have just read too much into it, imagining the tone which cannot be inferred from text.

        3. miro*

          Hmm, maybe I’m missing something. The main characterization of the partner (in the context of the relationship, not as a candidate) are SO and “domestic partner.” The latter seems formal to me–I’m more used to “live-in partner”–but I don’t perceive it as specifically queer, and the fact that they live together *is* a relevant thing here. The fact that OP uses non-gendered terms for the partner could indicate that he’s nonbinary, I suppose, though I know enough long-term opposite-sex couples who use terms like “SO” and “partner” (because boyfriend/girlfriend seem juvenile or suggestive of a shorter-term deal) that it didn’t read as “pretty damn likely” that they’re queer. Is there something else you picked up on that gives you that impression?

        4. Myrin*

          Alison said in a different thread – and at the end of this one, too, I just saw – that based on the email address this letter was sent from, they aren’t a same-sex couple.

    2. JM60*

      However, even if that was part of the reason, which is unacceptable, there are a million and one perfectly acceptable reasons to decline to interview the partner.

      Even if it was only part of the reason, that is discrimination, and is a very valid reason for the OP’s anger. I’m gay, and would be very angry at my employer if my partner’s gender had anything to do with him not getting a job. (Don’t get me wrong. There are many good reasons for employers to not consider spouses. But that should be 100% consistent, regardless of sexual orientation.)

      This is hypothetical though, since I don’t think we know the gender of the OP and their partner.

      1. 867-5309*

        Yes, this. If there is reason to believe it is discrimination that is different and actionable, but from what OP wrote, it seems 1.) other employees’ hired family members were contingent and 2.) they said nothing about those people being spouses or partners, so for all we know they are cousins. I do not think it makes sense to go down the rabbit hole of same sex discrimination because there is no indicator of that being the reason. (JM60, you were responding to others so my comment about “the rabbit hole” is not in relation to your reply.)

      1. Former Retail Lifer*

        Then I really don’t get the fury here. I thought there may be a reason, even if it was misguided, but clearly not.

    3. Observer*

      I think the OP is feeling some rage because they perceived discrimination: they’re a same sex couple that’s co-habitating and they think THAT’S the reason the partner was taken out of consideration

      We have no evidence of this being a same sex couple. And, given how quickly the OP jumps to “discrimination” and legal action, I cannot imagine them NOT mentioning it, if this were the case. Instead they highlight that they are being “discriminated against” for living in the same household.

    4. JSPA*

      That was my first guess–because otherwise, why on earth, the full head of steam / presumption of discrimination?–but per Alison, almost certainly not so. In which case, “discrimination” adds up to, “someone isn’t going the extra mile to do what I want them to.” Which isn’t the definition of “discrimination.”

  71. Astonished*

    Wow. Just wow.
    As a hiring manager, I would also not want to hire the significant other of an employee, for all of the reasons that Allison has stated. Also, when building a team, I get a pool of candidates that often have the same qualifications, but I am looking for certain strengths/weaknesses to balance out my team and make it the most diverse I can.
    This reaction (on both the part of the OP AND the significant other) is incredibly entitled. And I’m quite shocked at the anger on both parts.
    Frankly, if someone is reacting this way over something like this, they have deeper issues that are likely already manifesting themselves in the workplace, anyways. No way I would want to bring on more of that.

    OP, I think you might want to take a step back and evaluate where this sense of anger and entitlement comes from, and possibly speak to someone about it. It’s not healthy. I do hope you can find some peace.

  72. Tye*

    I have worked with my spouse twice — it’s not uncommon in our industry, which is also rife with employment inappropriateness, nepotism, and is notoriously boundary-challenged (journalism/media). The times I worked with my spouse were early in my career in this (again, super-damaged) industry, and I had no idea that it wasn’t completely normal and fine everywhere (I also pseudo-supervised my spouse in one of these positions — no one batted an eye). My spouse and I work together beautifully; we have great professional boundaries and enjoy each others’ company. In retrospect, that didn’t matter one bit. I later learned that many of our coworkers felt like one of both of us was getting preferential treatment and/or that we made decisions together, even when we didn’t (we really didn’t!). I feel crappy about it to this day, even if at the time I was young and ignorant and steeped in toxicity. The workplaces that hired us to work together were supremely — and I mean *supremely* f@cked up in other ways, and a willingness to hire partnered people was but one small manifestation of a whole lot of other kinds of bad decisions, double-standards, and discriminatory practices.

    Which is to say, the hiring manager in this case sounds wise and acted appropriately.

      1. selena*

        Yeah, your co-workers will always assume you are ‘looking out for each other’, no matter how objective&distant you think you are.

    1. Aerin*

      I met my spouse while working for The Mouse. There was a sort of policy (never learned if it was official or not) on steam trains that dating couples would not be assigned to the same train because they’d be more focused on each other than the job. I didn’t know about this policy for a while because Spouse and I were ALWAYS assigned to the same train if we were on the same shift, because we were both very good at our jobs and were even better working together. There were no concerns of preferential treatment because frankly we were both at the absolute bottom of the food chain and didn’t have the ability to make those kinds of decisions.

      The downfall came when a couple of people in management decided they had a problem with Spouse. (This wasn’t just in his head or something justified or anything–one of them admitted on Spouse’s last day that he’d had it out for him. The legal department was very interested to hear that.) It didn’t really blur into my relationship with those managers, but seeing the way he was treated soured me on the company. I’d envisioned myself as a lifer, but I only worked there through the end of college and then got a job elsewhere.

      So yeah, there are so many ways it can go wrong that even if the couple work perfectly together, it’s still not a good idea.

  73. Canadian Girl*

    My now husband and I met at a job and within a couple of months of dating we had the conversation of if we wanted the relationship to go anywhere one of us had to find another job. I’m the independent don’t fight my battles type and he was the knight in shining armor I’ll protect you type. For obvious reasons we wouldn’t work well together anyway but I don’t want to work with my partner I want to be able to have that break if something crappy is going on at home work is the escape and vice versa.

    1. Teapotcleaner*

      These are great values that you mentioned. I feel like you understand the situation perfectly. Couples need independence at work.

  74. ele4phant*

    I feel like your reaction here just confirms your supervisor’s decision not to consider hiring your partner.

    You are overly protective here; what dynamic will that introduce to your team if your partner struggles to get along with someone else on the team or is at fault for something. Are you going to be a weird little loyal unit that makes life miserable for everyone else on the team with your cliqueness?

    Some people may be able to separate work from home and could be professional if their partner were also a colleague, I feel like you couldn’t be though.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      You make a good point about how this could impact the team dynamic, but think about this from the perspective of someone who doesn’t see team morale as their responsibility. It wouldn’t surprise me if the OP hasn’t (or generally) doesn’t consider the broader impact of their actions.

  75. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    So your SO was referred, talked to a recruiter over the phone and got a personal call-back about why their application could not be considered? Not only is this not unprofessional or legally actionable, it’s also pretty darned great to get that personal notification!

  76. Trombones Geants*

    Jeepers. My daughter’s retail store won’t hire my other daughter for the same reason. She can work another outlet, but not at the same one. This is a pretty common thing.

  77. Robin Ellacott*

    I hope the OP can get past this and see this as a step the company takes to protect the work environment. It’s a really rare person who can navigate mixing work and personal relationships this effectively, and this question already shows a conflation of work and personal interests.

    We have a team member who does her job very well and cares DEEPLY about it, but also is prey to inappropriate ‘shoulds’ – “policy should be this instead” and “the company should do this.” She speaks authoritatively about these and attaches a lot of emotion to her opinions, but doesn’t have the right role or the right breadth of work to actually know what would be good policies. When she suggested we hired a relative it was an immediate no because there is no way she could work impartially with them. I think OP’s manager probably has the same concern and doesn’t want to set OP, their team, and and their partner up for messy work drama.

  78. In my shell*

    I hope this letter to AAM was recent enough that OP hasn’t made a mess in the relationships at work. Yikes.

    On behalf of the manager (I’m not the manager), I’m inclined to argue that OP should proactively look for other employment, since they are unlikely to accept what Alison and the Comments here say and the hard feelings will likely lead to a mess and putting their own job security at risk through their interactions and behaviors in dealing with the manager that they are “stuck” dealing with going forward. It should be salvageable, but it seems prudent for OP to work on an exit strategy and to prepare for a fresh start.

  79. Elbe*

    I agree with everyone else that the LW’s reaction isn’t in line with the situation.

    I understand that it’s upsetting when a job doesn’t work out, especially when it would bring a lot of benefits to the LW and their partner. But it seems like the feelings of disappointment are being converted into feelings of anger, and of being wronged. It reads as aggression that comes from a place of entitlement.

    The LW should keep in mind that it’s incredibly common for people who are qualified for a job to not get it, or to not get an interview. The manager may have already received dozens of qualified applicants. And it’s also incredibly common for managers to give “lame” reasons for declining to interview a candidate. It’s possible there were many other reasons that they didn’t mention. Disappointing as it is, people often get passed over for reasons they don’t agree with. Because it’s the hiring managers call to decide who is best for the role – not the applicant’s.

  80. I'm Not Phyllis*

    For all of the reasons mentioned by Alison I’d have chosen the same path as your manager. I also want to point out that even if a couple does act professionally, gets along at work and causes no drama – it can still cause issues on a team because people do (whether they have to or not) worry how the partner will react to all of those scenarios (negative feedback, not getting chosen for a project, etc.). And judging by how personally the OP is taking this action (non-action?) by their manager I could see that being a significant issue.

  81. HRArwy*

    I feel like this is one of those situations where OP should reach out to a lawyer so they can basically tell OP how it is. I find that helps for some people.

  82. mockingbird2081*

    As a hiring manager I immediately thought as I read your take on the situation that your manager dodged a bullet. You went from please consider my SO to they turned down your SO and you want to know if you can take legal action against the company in some way. I’m with Allison, it sounds like you might have already raised some red flags before this situation came up. I would also not want SO working together because if I have an issue with one I feel like I would have to be keeping on eye on the other, because we all vent to our SO’s about our bosses, co-workers etc.

    1. Elbe*

      “You went from please consider my SO to they turned down your SO and you want to know if you can take legal action against the company in some way.”

      Yes, this was a massive escalation. The LW seems to think that the company was somehow obligated to hire her partner, and that they need to justify their decision in a way she deems acceptable OR ELSE. The reality is that he was one candidate among many and they’re under no obligation to hire any specific person.

      I’m genuinely curious as to what she thinks a grounds for a lawsuit could be. Just because other people who are related work for the company doesn’t mean that they have to hire every employee’s relative. The company sets its policies regarding employee relationships, so it can re-set them any time it wants or make any exceptions it wants. None of this is a legal obligation.

  83. NewYork*

    I haven’t read all comments, but I really think this is a bad idea. Having worked for two companies that have had to close, you do not want both of your working at the same place, if at avoidable. The financial consequences can be tough.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      Oh, good point. Everyone thought accounting giant Arthur Andersen was as solid as can be, and it was, for decades. Then, everything went south when they got involved in the Enron scandal and the firm folded, leaving people who had never worked anywhere else in the lurch. If you and your spouse both worked there, then what?

    2. selena*

      I agree completely.
      I am a very risk-avoidant person so i would never want to be dependent on the exact same company as a spouse or sibling. Especially not as a career-defining multi-year employer.

      I also knew in advance i would want more than one employee on my resumé, as another measure to increase my chances of ‘surviving’ a layoff or company-bancrupcy.

    3. so anon for this*

      + 1 million.

      About this time last year, my brother-in-law was laid off from his job, pretty high up in a COVID-sensitive industry that has a global footprint.

      They have a mortgage and two teenagers, one of whom will be starting college in the fall of 2022. It made a *huge* difference for their family that my sister has a public-sector job that she likes and that pays a respectable wage. (And she has seniority, so she is — knock wood — as secure as anyone can be right now.)

  84. LGC*

    …well, this is A WAY to spend a snow day!

    For what it’s worth, LW: it can even be consistent that two family members might have the same supervisor, but it’s not allowed in your case. At my job, I can think of a couple of pairs of siblings that work together (the team I’m currently supervising has a sibling pair), but romantic partners are usually in different departments. Especially if your work would intersect – which is the important consideration here – a manager might not want to take that chance.

    (We had a husband and wife on staff – the wife left for another company a couple of months ago – who reported to the same boss. But they were both shift supervisors in different buildings and projects, and my boss is a VP who compulsively micromanages.)

    The thing is, though…what jumps out at me is that your boss rejected interviewing your partner because you cohabitate. It doesn’t seem like the company, at any point, had said that your partner was ineligible for hire. I really hope that your partner has not said anything rash yet (although I’m a bit worried he has) – because it seems like he actually could work for your company, just not in your department.

    1. LGC*

      I should also note that we’re data entry clerks, so there’s very little collaboration between floor employees. For management staff, we have stronger firewalls – brothers wouldn’t report to each other, for example.

  85. The Crown*

    It’s probably a good idea that they don’t work together given the OPs reaction. If something happened with their partner at any time at work that may be bad, they would be very likely to have this strong reaction and ire towards the employer when it was not justified. Annnd, a good reason not to hire someone to the same team that are together. OP kind of proves the point of why their boss wouldn’t want to do this.

  86. Firecat*

    At first I thought it was going to be something like: my company ghosted my partner afteronths of interviews and skills tests….

    That at least I can understand being miffed at. But not getting interviewed because they don’t hire couples onto the same team? A non issue.

  87. EchoGirl*

    When I worked for a nonprofit law group, we had a few spouse/partner pairs working there, but pretty much always completely different departments where their jobs wouldn’t cross over all that much. For example, we had an attorney who had worked there for a few years, and they ended up hiring her husband to run a new expansion project, but there was no real question of conflict of interest because she worked in a completely different department that didn’t cross over with his all that much. So they were working in the same place but except for our occasional all-staff meetings and having interchangeable office keys, it was almost as if they were working for two companies that happened to be in the same building. But having a couple working in the same department, even if they were both total professionals, would probably have been a very different dynamic, which is likely why no such thing ever happened.

  88. Bookworm*

    Like what others said, I think your reaction is a bit much and wonder if there’s something else that’s personal going on. A company isn’t obligated to hire or even interview and maybe they ultimately decided they didn’t want someone’s partner working in the same department.

    I was on the other side of something like this years ago, except it was a volunteer situation. The volunteer had worked with us for several years, got their spouse to take a shift. It was a disaster where the spouse basically stayed off their site and left the management of the site to the more experienced volunteer who could manage but was also not designated as the manager (plus this meant the site was short-handed). When I tried to speak to the spouse about it the volunteer was on the other line and flipped out at me. Just totally had a meltdown on the phone. I don’t believe it was an abusive situation (but rather volunteer defending spouse and taking it out on me) but when discussing the overall situation with my co-workers we could only guess there was some dynamic to the relationship (spouse didn’t want to do this but volunteer insisted).

    The point? There’s something else going on and it’s not with your company. That’re you’re talking about LEGAL ramifications or steps over a non-interview over a criteria that isn’t protected (you don’t say?) seems a bit much.

  89. Blisskrieg*

    Agreed. I used the word “case” but should have used a different word that doesn’t have legal connotations. I meant case just in the sense of having a (germ of a grain of a) valid argument. Based on all the clarifications regarding “contingent” employee, she doesn’t even have that.

  90. RB*

    While I agree with Alison’s response, and I feel it applies to the majority of companies out there, it sounded like this company regularly hires relatives and has several relatives of employees on staff at any given time, so I can understand why the LW is miffed.

    1. selena*

      It sounds to me like the situation is only tangentially related: as i understand it these other people are temporary workers and are siblings&cousins instead of spouses.

      So while it’s true they do not have strict rules about ‘only ever hiring strangers’ that does not automatically mean they want to become *a family company*

      But it does seem like the company was never clear about that distinction. So i agree with you that OP is justified in feeling somewhat taken aback.

      Too bad she seems to be completely overreacting, taking it as a personal betrayal when it is more like a polite ‘sorry, we will not go ahead with your candidacy’ email

    2. No Name #1*

      A cousin or sibling even who is a temp or contractor in a different department is very different from a domestic partner working in a permanent position. It is completely reasonable for a company to not hire spouses or partners and the LW did not mention examples of spouses who work at the company together, which leads me to believe that there aren’t any. Also, even beyond the fact that it is a rational reason to decline an application, the LW does not have any evidence that there weren’t other reasons why her partner didn’t receive an interview. During COVID, unemployment is high and a lot of qualified people are out of work and competing for the same spots. The LW is assuming that her partner was one of, if not the most qualified candidates and there is simply no way for her to know that that is the case. I am guessing there were a number of candidates who looked just as qualified or perhaps more qualified with the added benefit that there would not be a conflict of interest. Also, while it is reasonable to be disappointed, the anger towards the supervisor indicates to me that there might be issues with the LW’s attitude in the workplace.

  91. CatLadyInTraining*

    My mother taught for years at a Preschool-12th grade private school and there were spouses who did both work at the school, but never in the same department. For instance, the wife might teach second grade and the husband might teach 10th grade science. Or the husband was the high school guidance counselor and his wife taught 6th grade math..
    In these cases it was never a problem, but the school did have high standards and they would try to keep spouses in separate departments and grade levels in the school. Vacations were never an issue, because everyone at the school would more or less have the same time off.

    The OP needs to change their attitude. The company not wanting to interview your partner, is NOT a “lame excuse.” No one is owed an interview…

    1. CB*

      Exactly! My parents met when they were both working at the same place, and they continued to work there for a good five or six years after they got married. However, they both did COMPLETELY different jobs in COMPLETELY different departments and there was no crossover between the two, so there was no problem with that.

      Admittedly, this was the 1970s and the rules were a bit different then!

      PS: Love your screen name, I often joke I’m a Cat Lady In Training!

  92. selena*

    ……There’s one other possibility here, which I’m sorry to have to raise: Based on the aggressively adversarial stance you took in your letter, I wouldn’t be surprised if your boss already sees you as something of a problem. I can tell you that even if I were open to considering hiring an employee’s partner, I absolutely would not consider it for someone who I already felt was a problem — since that significantly increases the chances of all the potential issues above. It’s possible that the answer to why your boss won’t consider your partner is right there in your letter…..

    I appreciate that you say this. Because sometimes people really need that hard wakeup call about their attitude.
    If OP is always this hostile and confrontational when faced with dissapointment it stands to reason her manager would want to keep as much distance as possible.

  93. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    Two points in response to details of the OP, not really with reference to the official answer, but I hope they are relevant (rather than just ‘related’ which I am often guilty of..!) anyway.

    The company’s policy for employment of relatives ironically starts with being committed to having a policy of hiring based solely on qualifications and merit. My SO would have met these qualifications, but seems to have been discriminated against when the hiring manager determined we lived together.

    So… what I take from this is that there is existing a ( probably written? or at least well-known?) policy about employment of relatives. Perhaps as one of many policies (or sub-sections of policies) found in a handbook, intranet site, or wherever your HR information comes from.

    What I don’t understand is what’s ironic about that.

    I assume that the tl;dr of that policy is that people are recruited primarily based on qualifications and merit, rather than (cronyism/nepotism) based on who they know or who they are related to. [A morally sound policy in my view, although I’m aware that there are cultures where nepotism etc is ‘expected’ and the perceived moral choice is to give jobs to people in your circle as a preference!] So if you (generic you) refer your family member for a position… they will be given consideration but won’t automatically get the job just because they are your relative — an “anti-nepotism” policy if you will.

    Maybe the policy isn’t well-worded, or maybe it lost something in the re-telling over the internet but it seems clear to me that the intent of that policy statement is “we won’t automatically hire connected people over random applicants” rather than “relationship status to existing employees won’t be considered whatsoever”.

    I don’t want to put my job in jeopardy, but I don’t want to be a pushover.

    In my experience a pushover (I’m not nitpicking the language but rather drawing on the concept — there are lots of alternative words that could be used: mug, doormat, acquiesces too easily, too easy-going, doesn’t put up a fight, etc) relates more to a situation of accepting something *which could reasonably have been assertively pushed back about*. So a pushover (etc) is in contrast to a situation where there was some other, probably more assertive, choice.

    In this case I don’t think there is. What’s in opposition to being a pushover in this situation? Causing a scene with the boss? Challenging the decision aggressively? Those are other actions you could take but aren’t really valid ways to change the outcome, which is a result of policy rather than of how it was presented. You could tactfully push back once (probably to HR if there is a dedicated function) to ask about specifics of the policy and why the decision was made, although you’d probably just get bland generic answers on the whole.

    The trouble I think is not every situation can be described and worked through with a black-and-white policy document: if this then that etc.

    1. Antilles*

      I wonder if OP is reading too much into the policy – OP sees “we hire solely based on qualifications and merit” and is reading too much into it…when really, those words are principally intended as a boilerplate statement that the company (1) does not tolerate illegal discrimination based on race/age/religion/marital status/etc and (2) will not commit nepotism by hiring unqualified candidates just because they have an ‘in’.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Yes! I didn’t mention the race, age, religion etc aspect here as it didn’t seem relevant to this particular Q, but I would absolutely say a policy statement like that would also be saying those things are not a factor.

    2. CB*

      I think the phrase “seems to have been discriminated against” is important here, with emphasis on “seems”. It sounds to me that OP doesn’t know the full reasoning behind their partner not getting an interview and has immediately jumped to a conclusion that may not be true.

      Of course, discrimination may actually be the reason for this situation, but there are many other reasons why someone might not get an interview – unless OP has been told why, they do not know.

  94. Not the OP, but...*

    My husband lost his job in May, because of the pandemic. A job that I thought he’d be very well suited for opened up at my company – different departments, same overall manager (it’s a smaller company). We discussed it, and agreed we’d be comfortable working together. My company isn’t shy about hiring family members, so I discussed it with the hiring manager, who was open to reviewing his application. Long story short, he didn’t get an interview. I was disappointed. He was disappointed. But we both shrugged it off and went on with our lives. OP, I’m not trying to invalidate your feelings, but they’re BIG FEELINGS for something like this. It wasn’t like your SO made it to final round and was passed over for a technicality. Let this go.

  95. The WH chick*

    Wow… I had a couple on a team I led before. They where the first and the last. I will never do it again. Despite reassurances from them and HR… it was a nightmare. Never again…

  96. Aeon*

    I feel for OP, because it sounds like they had a lot riding on their partner’s candidacy. Times are tough, the job market is really competitive and OP probably thought giving their partner an in at their company was the answer to their problem.

    But a couple working in the same department, reporting to the same manager can definitely be trouble waiting to happen. Very few couples I’ve worked with end up behaving as professionally and preventing any disruption as much they claim they would. I can think of maybe two couples whose behavior did not eventually cause some sort of problem. Few hiring managers I’ve worked for would take that issue on unless the candidate was exceptional.

  97. CZBZ*

    I feel for this person and their dissatisfaction. I read this as a possibly quite young or inexperienced person who has not yet found their footing in accepting professional frustration or disappointment, especially with the way she has used “discriminated against” in this context. It truly seems like they are unused to professional norms and work nuances and power structures, and had much too high expectations of how this would play out. I think perhaps the outrage was outsized due to out of bounds assumptions and perhaps a runaway imagination of how great it would be to work together. It’s ok to just let it go and say a hearty “their loss!” to yourself. This will surely not be the last time you disagree with a boss’ decision in a big way.

  98. Teapotcleaner*

    Here’s story about working with a couple at my job: A problematic worker made the boss hire her little sister. My boss was very passive and let anything flow through. So we got the little sister as a hire. She made attitude faces and had quite a character of a little girl this was her first job. Then the big sister and the little sister came up with a plot to bring in the little sisters boyfriend in the guise of a male “cousin.” Soon the little sister and her boyfriend were spending a lot of time together in the job and team leads and other coworkers soon knew it was a boyfriend. However, to not make the couple feel uncomfortable no one really mentioned anything and we tried to NEVER ever bring it up ever. So we silently watched as the little sisters coworker friend cliqued with the coupled and together they teamed up against management, gossiped, judged others and took days off as a trio. I have seen these people fight each other’s battles and make the job a little high school with drama. The older sister moved to a new job in the same company but this couple still works with us making their professional credibility very questionable. We have witnessed so much as a team. We have seen it all they even made the boss hire their cousin so sometimes 4 people are out at the same time. I have seen hiring family members and working with them go very badly. We still work like this till this day but as a team we cannot be around the clique because we simply don’t fit in it’s not inclusive. We are all in our early 20’s with some older coworkers on our team as well. It has been a challenge but we look past it as it’s the boss fault for not screening these hires and knowingly hiring family members. Boy has he learned his lesson! I have seen them threaten to take him to HR when he didn’t want to give them the same days off. A lot of us on the team much rather not work with our family members anyway. I am glad the OPs company told the applicant that they were not considered and why. The reason is important I am so glad they were honest. It’s better to know and move on proactively.

  99. Avyncentia*

    If you were in the same large company but very different roles or departments, I could see being a bit more “what gives,” but this is the same department and manager! It’s not good for morale or logistics. I work for a 10k employee company with lots of intra-office dating and marriage and multiple siblings and HR absolutely moves people to other departments or roles rather than have a couple (or even family members) on the same team. It’s a reasonable stance to take.

  100. LondonLady*

    Working with your SO rarely works out well unless it’s your own project or company – and even then it’s stressful. Many years ago my then partner joined me in working for the same large local firm (there were many relationships among employees) but while I loved the organisation, he was unhappy with some management decisions, and my ‘failure’ to take his side was damaging to our relationship. We eventually split up and while working together did not cause that, it certainly did not help.

  101. Not So NewReader*

    OP, if you are still reading, I hope you are.
    I have a slightly different take here. I have seen people get hoppin’ angry at their employers. What you have written here is pretty tame comparatively. I am kind of surprised by the number of people who posted here and think it’s the worst thing ever. Eh, yeah, there’s worse.

    My thought that I wanted to toss out is to ask, how is everything else with this job? Could be just me, OP, but you sound war-weary. Very tired people can be very provoked. Is every day a fight at this place? Overall how are people’s relationships with each other? Do you see consistent friendships or are friendships on and off? Are people randomly at odds with each other?

    Do you basically like the job/people/boss? I am kind of betting not because if there was any glimmer of hope here I really doubt you’d be up on the ceiling right now. To me you sound like someone who has hit their last straw.

    You say you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize your job. Wise choice. But it also leads me to believe that it’s just a paycheck to you at this point.

    FWIW, I think a good boss would have sat down with you and explained in general terms how hiring works and explained not to expect family to get hired. Then s/he would have gone on to explain WHY you see family members working together and what to expect in the future. I was in this spot. The boss explained that over the years the company hired family. But as time went on the company realized this did not really work well for them and they would be moving family members away from each other. So the couple or pair of related people would decide who would make a move to another department and one would move.

    The fact that your boss did not take – oh a whopping five minutes- to talk with you about the general trend in your company really bugs the crap out of me. And that LOOONG five minutes of explanation probably could have saved you and your spouse a whole bunch of angst. I am already NOT a fan of your boss. It’s common knowledge that people get upset when loved ones are rejected. He should have known and he should have done better here.

    One thing I need to say, OP, when I have reached levels of boiling anger like this, it has meant I was done with my job. Once we are able to get this angry over one thing then more upsets seem to follow. It strikes me that you could be hanging on by a thread here.

    Where I land is I suggest you both look for new jobs and you both encourage each other along your own separate and distinct paths. You could call it, “A time for new beginnings” and build something different for yourselves. Something better.

    1. Batgirl*

      I had a really similar thought y’know. Like how is the general trust and good will between OP and her bosses? It’s speculation but I think the big picture message is OP should probably reflect on why she went straight to suspicion. Is it bad blood? Did she have an idea all referrals were a formality and any that fall down is a snub? It shouldn’t be hard to identify the source of the anger. It’s a really useful emotion that way.

  102. Former Employee*

    The OP is comparing a permanent, full time position with contingent work and equating the relationship between cousins (?) with that of domestic partners. Sounds like apples and kumquats to me.

    In the situation of a contract worker, if things don’t go well, there’s no need to fire them. Their contract just isn’t renewed.

    Plus, people generally don’t break up with their cousins nor are they more likely to have a problem with that person than they would with any other coworker.

  103. Jane*

    I work with a married couple (not married or in a relationship when they were employed).

    Something that everyone forgets in these discussions is that married couples will want the same days off.

    If they both do the same job, would it be fair to prevent them taking holidays together? But then does that leave a role under-staffed when they are on leave?

  104. Ask a manger*

    I had come across a similar situation. I was referred to a position on the same team as my partner. He only referred me because the manager of the team supervisor is the wife of one of his team members. Since the wife is in a position of supervision over her husband’s supervisor, we didn’t think that working on the same team would be a conflict of interest. But the recruiter told us that 2 people living at the same address cannot have the same supervisor, regardless of relationship to each other. She said that these guidelines would also exclude roommates from working together.

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