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What is Nepotism and What Can You Do If It Affects You?

Nepotism occurs when those with control in the workplace favor relatives over other applicants and employees. As frustrating as it might be to deal with in the workplace, it is almost never considered illegal. And not only can a related applicant be favored over another, an unrelated employee could be fired to allow for the hiring of a relative.

Exceptions to the Usual Nepotism Rules

Despite no outright laws against nepotism, there are instances in which it could create a problem for an employer. There are no guarantees a complaint against an employer will be successful under these circumstances, but if they sound similar to your situation, you could contact an attorney who understands employment laws in your state.

An occurrence of nepotism could be against the law if:

  • The organization in question is a public employer. Many states have laws prohibiting nepotism in the government workforce;
  • Familial relations are kept a secret. It is legal to hire a relative, but it may violate company policy to hire one and not let human resources or anyone else know he or she is a relative;
  • Issues arise concerning race or national origin. Companies are allowed to hire relatives, but if there appears to be an issue where they are turning down better qualified applicants to maintain a certain racial or ethnic profile within the company, it might be a case of violating discrimination law;
  • Companies do business oversees and violations related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act come into in question.

Alternately, if a company has a no-married-couples policy in place and forces one spouse to leave if two employees marry, this could be seen as gender discrimination.

Violations Related to Company Policy

There are companies that have put policies in place to avoid issues with nepotism. If you believe you were overlooked because someone in charge preferred his or her relative over you, and the company does have an anti-nepotism policy, your best bet is to take it up with human resources. If the situation is not remedied, an attorney could help you evaluate your situation and determine if further action is warranted.

Small businesses are often faced with questions about nepotism because many are family businesses or just forced to deal with limited hiring resources. Read more about small businesses and nepotism in this article from Chron.

If you have questions about nepotism or any other employment issues, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. for more information or to schedule a free consultation.


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