If an employment restriction is not listed in the company handbook, can it be enforced?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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If an employment restriction is not listed in the company handbook, can it be enforced?

My girlfriend is the manager at a bridal shop and mother and sister also work as employees at the shop. My mother and sister worked at this bridal shop before my girlfriend was promoted to manager. Upper management is threatening to either fire my sister and mother or my girlfriend because we are dating they have to decide but someone has to go they said. There is nothing in their employee handbook saying this is not allowed, although just a couple weeks ago they made her promise she wouldn’t fraternize with any other employees outside the management position. Can either one of them legally get fired?

Asked on October 3, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Yes, if they do not have a written employment contract which limits the reasons they could be fired and if so, this is not one of the permitted reasons, then they could be fired.
1 Without a contract, an employee is an employe at will and may be fired at any time, for any reason whatsoever.
2 Employers may add or change employment restrictions at will, again, unless there was a written employment contract they are not limited to the restrictions in the employee handbook.
So the employer may decide that it does not want this sort of entanglement or connection among employees and choose to fire one or all of the employees involved.

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