Can my daughter’s employer tell her that she is not allowed in the market unless she is working and that she cannot contact ex-boyfriend or they will fire her?

My 20 year old daughter and her ex-boyfriend work in same large supermarket. He recently went to human resources and asked that he not be scheduled at same time as her and that he doesn’t want any contact with her at all. They told my daughter she is not allowed in the market unless she is working and that if they find out she texted or called him outside of work that they will fire her for harrassment. She had texted him after the break when neither were working to request that her things be returned to her and he wouldn’t reply. She returned his things right after the breakup.

Asked on May 22, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, an employer may--

1) impose a non-fraternization policy between employees, one which even covers their off-duty actions (e.g. no dating or socializing co-workers)

2) Even in the absence of a more general non-fraternization policy, if there is a complaint that one employee is harassing another, the employer may take actions to prevent contact between them

3) And an employer may also prohibit employees from frequenting the place of employment when off-duty.

IF the employer is treating a female employee different (worse) than a male employee in any of the above regards, and there is seemingly no reason for that differential treatment other than treating a woman worse than a man, that might be illegal sex-based discrimination. But in the absence of such illegal discrimination, the employer would seem to be able to do what it is doing.

If the ex-boyfriend has unlawfully retained her belongings and is causing trouble for her at work--possibly by lying about her actions, which could be defamation--your daughter should speak with a lawyer; the attorney can help her regain her belongings and also prevent him from doing anything more to damage her.

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