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When should I disclose an ongoing relationship with someone who is in a legal battle with my employer?

I just put this question on hold, after it had received several close votes (in addition to several people suggesting it is off topic but not voting..). I believe this is off topic for two reasons:

First, it is "tell me what to do" and it's impossible to really evaluate or understand all the factors in that person's situation to answer well.

Second, the core of the question is (as I said in my comment there comment), "in order to best protect my job, when my girlfriend is in a lawsuit against my employer, should I talk with my boss and disclose the relationship?" This is a question that requires a lawyer familiar with the asker's situation to answer. Information in a comment suggests they are living in a foreign country as an expat and cannot easily just quit their job, too, which makes it even more complicated.

However it's somewhat popular and had 5 answers and so I want to open a meta discussion to discuss it in more details.

  • This answer on a related question is recommended reading. The main problem with this question, I feel, is that people are interpreting the question in different ways. The ethical/professional angle in it seems to be on-topic and is what my answer covered. – Lilienthal Oct 15 '15 at 7:33
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    Naming a meta-question exactly the same as the main-question it's discussing is confusing to me. Could this be edited to be titled something like "Is … on topic?" – Anko Oct 24 '15 at 18:20
10

I think there is an on-topic question in here. The problem is that it's intertwined with legal issues and seems to stray too far in the wrong direction on the personal-advice front.

The question quality -- well-written and not ranty like many "what should I do?" questions are -- makes me want to work harder to bring the question into line with our scope so it can be reopened. I haven't quite figured out what edit would do that, but if others have ideas, I hope you'll make (or propose) edits. Conflict of interest (and the appearance of same) is a tricky problem in many workplaces; that is solidly within our scope.

  • What if we changed the question to "When should I disclose?" I think that is the type of focus this question needs. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 26 '15 at 13:47
  • @Chad "when, if ever" would seem to cover that while reserving the OP's intent, yeah. Goo idea; want to edit? – Monica Cellio Oct 27 '15 at 2:13
5

The question is: Does OP disclose his relation to the plaintiff to his employer (the defendant)? Only someone familiar with employment and contract law in northern Europe can provide a helpful answer about whether there can/will be repercussions of such a relationship and disclosure. But that answer would be off-topic as legal advice. Everyone else will just have to guess, which leads to unhelpful answers.

I don't see a way to remove the legal aspect of the question since it bears so heavily on the answers that will be considered helpful. As such, I don't think the question should be reopened. The only safe answer is to consult an attorney in OP's locality for advice.

-1

I voted to close because it is a fairly classic "what should I do?" question. What I would do is dump my crazy girlfriend. Others have different approaches to the problem, and the "right" answer, even for experts, will vary significantly on the particulars of the person asking the question.

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    Describing the OP's girlfriend as "crazy" isn't very professional. – Andrew Grimm Oct 19 '15 at 6:42
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    @AndrewGrimm - so what? This is not a professional setting. And even if it were a professional setting, I'm not one to mince words. "I would reconsider my relationship based on her decisions." Is just a fancy way of questioning her sanity. – Telastyn Oct 19 '15 at 11:44
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    @Telastyn: Note that even if she has mental issues (which we cannot judge), OP may decide not to break up - that is not a decision you can take for someone else. Also, on a personal note, as someone who knows people with mental health issues, I find the comment "dump my crazy girlfriend" disrespectful. – sleske Oct 20 '15 at 7:06
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    @sleske - Thanks for helping my argument - that is absolutely not a decision we can take for this person. "What should I do?" questions have that problem. – Telastyn Oct 20 '15 at 11:30
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    I'm with @Telastyn on this... I thought the same thing when I read the question. She is a crazy girlfriend, not in that we perceive she has mental health concerns, but in the sense that she is selfish, short-sighted, and makes really bad decisions. It's a perfectly acceptable use of the word "crazy" in modern English. – Kent A. Oct 22 '15 at 13:57
  • I did exactly the opposite (first, I didn't dump anything, second, if I had to choose, I would choose the girl and not the job). But I think, if this question had both of our answers below that, and the community and the OP would decide between them with upvotes and the pipe, it would be a very worthy content, because it would make possible to evaluate the opposite viewpoints and arguments for the same case. I simply can't any reason why should be such a content expelled from the site. – Gray Sheep Oct 26 '15 at 0:54
  • Yes, questions about complex workplace situations may have sometimes multiple answers, and sometimes contradictional answers. What is the problem with that? This is not the math SE. – Gray Sheep Oct 26 '15 at 0:56
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    @Telastyn You don't decide anything instead of him, You answer what you see, (s)he will decide. If (s)he doesn't calculate into his/her decision that your suggestion couldn't be based on every important details, (s)he is crazy - but it is anyways his/her responsibility, and not yours. The OP asks, you answer, over that it is not your responsibility. – Gray Sheep Oct 26 '15 at 6:16
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    @MorningStar - StackExchange as a whole is a Q&A site. While there may be multiple possible answers, there should be one single answer preferred by a majority of experts. Otherwise questions are not a good fit for the site, since it is no longer Q&A, but Q&discussion/debate/etc. A question like this especially has no correct answer. – Telastyn Oct 26 '15 at 11:17
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    We don't have enough information to know who's being unreasonable. (Especially since this is Northern Europe, which does not follow the same employment rules as 'at will' states in the U.S.). Answering the question has to start from the premise that the OP wants to keep both the girlfriend and the job, and answer whether non-disclosure is professional or not (aside from any legal responsibilities/risks, which are clearly out-of-scope.) Evaluating whether keeping the relationship and/or the job is desirable is out-of-scope (and impossible to do well with the limited info we have.) – LindaJeanne Oct 26 '15 at 11:31
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    (continued: In the U.S, a lawsuit against a company that fired you would be -- at best -- futile and unwise, unless the firing were for discriminatory reasons. As such, it would likely come across as vindictive and unprofessional; this seems to be the perspective from which you are answering. In most places in Northern Europe, the legal and cultural expectations are very different: you can't fire someone just because you don't get along with them. Therefore, the girlfriend may well have a strong case from both a legal and a 'reasonableness' perspective, given the context.). – LindaJeanne Oct 26 '15 at 11:44
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I don't see any reason to close the "what should I do" questions as off-topic. Why? People asking the question knows very well, that you can't see all of their current situation. Only a... short-sighting people would ask here for oracles.

OP asking "what to do" doesn't ask for literal commands, he/she asks for your viewpoints. He wants to see, how do you see his situation. You don't need to close his question, only answer him, what do you think and why.

It will be his(her) responsibility to decide, what he does with the answer. If (s)he doesn't calculates into his deeds that you surely see only a small part of the described case, it is his(her) own responsibility.


And there is another important argument:

Asking about complex workplace situations isn't like asking "why this software code snippet doesn't do what it should". There are no exact answers here - if you prescribe every question doesn't have an exact answer, you essentially filter out every question from this site.

But this is the voting system and the pipe icon for. The OP asks the question, everybody answer his version, and then the votes and the pipes will show the results. This system is very compatible even with not exact questions.

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    Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum, it's a Q/A site. It is important to keep a question here an actual question -- not a request for opinions. The "situation, what to do?" misses the question part. Confusion and "help me please" types of things are good for discussion, but not answers. A "tell me how to do X" type of question? That is fine. It's the open ended questions where no objective/goal/problem are listed that are impossible to meaningfully answer. – enderland Oct 26 '15 at 14:45
  • @enderland It essentially means that you can't ask "situation X, what to do", but you can ask, for example, "situation X, how to solve Y while Z?". The second matches the Q/A as you describe, while the first doesn't. But they are essentially the same questions. I can't disagree your idea about that the Q/A format should be enforced on a Q/A site; but also I can't agree with hairsplitting. I think, a little bit of rigor is acceptable; particularly considering the worth of the answers (it is about to solve workplace problems), but it should be at least more clearly communicated for the newbies. – Gray Sheep Jan 15 '17 at 13:20

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