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Advisory Council on Ethics (ACE)

Advisory Council on Ethics Opinion No. 9

January 8, 1999

If a Senior Warden and his wife are not allowed to work on the same unit, is it ethical for a Senior Warden to date an employee that is on his shift?

Dating or other romantic/intimate situations between supervisors and subordinate are unethical and should be discontinued. ACE members define supervisor as anyone in an employee's direct chain of command ranging from immediate supervisor to the director of the agency.

According to the TDCJ Nepotism Policy (PD-26), married employees are not allowed supervisory responsibilities over each other. There are no current policies or law prohibiting a dating relationship when one member has supervisory responsibility over the other; however, the absence of an existing policy or law specifically addressing this situation does not make it ethical.

This behavior creates an opportunity for favored treatment of a subordinate or the perception of favored treatment which negatively impacts morale, productivity and effectiveness of any department. It creates a climate of distrust and resentment, and may give rise to grievances or lawsuits from disgruntled employees. Such a perception of favoritism often has a direct effect on the morale of the other employees. No supervisor should impair his/her effectiveness through personal behavior that brings his/her objectivity into question.

ACE finds no positive results when a supervisor becomes socially or intimately involved with an employee over whom she/he has supervision in their job. Such behavior negatively impacts the overall functioning of the agency. Immediate steps should be taken to correct any situation where an inappropriate relationship exists between an employee and their supervisor.