1204 - Nepotism
- Employee Relations Officers
- Personnel Officers
- Personnel Transactions Supervisors
- Provides the definition of nepotism.
- Identifies potentially sensitive situations where nepotism may occur.
- Discusses the factors a department should consider when evaluating the potential impact of a personal relationship.
- Identifies the types of work relationships that may apply to nepotism.
- Examines other factors a department should include in their nepotism policy.
The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) provides guidance to all departments by identifying potentially sensitive situations in which personal relationships could affect working conditions. This guidance will aid all departments in the development of their own nepotism policies.
It is the policy of the State of California to recruit, hire and assign all employees on the basis of merit and fitness in accordance with civil service statutes, rules and regulations. Nepotism is expressly prohibited in the state workplace because it is antithetical to California’s merit based civil service.
Nepotism is defined as the practice of an employee using his or her influence or power to aid or hinder another in the employment setting because of a personal relationship. Personal relationships for this purpose include but are not limited to, association by blood, adoption, marriage and/or cohabitation. In addition, there may be personal relationships beyond this general definition that could be subject to these policies.
When determining how to define personal relationships within a department’s policy, many include definitions that apply narrowly to relationships of blood, marriage, and adoption. It should be noted that this definition may be too narrow as it fails to consider the additional types of work relationships which may apply to nepotism such as when two people live together outside of marriage, and personal friendships that may involve stronger personal commitments than family relationships. The intent of a nepotism policy or rule should be first and foremost to prevent favoritism or bias based on a personal relationship.
CalHR does not maintain a uniform statewide policy governing nepotism but instead provides guidance for departments to use when developing or updating their own nepotism policies. All department policies should emphasize that nepotism is antithetical to a merit-based personnel system and that the department is committed to the state policy of recruiting, hiring and assigning employees on the basis of merit.
While there may be situations where it is appropriate for two individuals who have a personal relationship to work in the same program or activity, departments should be particularly cautious regarding the following potentially sensitive situations: (1) where persons who have a personal relationship work in a small unit in close association; (2) where persons who have a personal relationship work for the same supervisor; and (3) where persons who have a personal relationship have a direct or indirect supervisor/subordinate relationship.
When evaluating the potential impact of personal relationships, departments should carefully evaluate the following factors to ensure there is no adverse effect on the workplace:
- The work production of the unit;
- The safety, security, and morale of the employees in the unit; and
- The fair and impartial supervision and evaluation of employees.
While it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of marital status, supervisors are permitted to make employment decisions for bona fide business reasons of supervision, safety, security or morale. (See Gov. Code § 12940 (a)(3)(A); Cal. Code Regs. tit. 2, § 11057.) In circumstances where a personal relationship has had a demonstrable adverse impact on the work of employees in the unit or the fair and impartial supervision and evaluation of the employees in the unit, the department may consider possible alternatives to ensure the workplace is fair and equitable. However, in all circumstances, there must be a legitimate, work-related basis for the employer to implement a strict prohibition against personal relationships.
Nepotism policies should afford departments the ability to evaluate each situation and determine whether the relationship has an adverse impact on the workplace. Strict prohibitions should extend only to those situations where a personal relationship between employees is likely to adversely impact an employee's ability and fitness to accomplish his/her specific job duties or when the relationship has an adverse impact on the workplace.
Depending on the department and its needs, it may be appropriate to also consider the following factors:
- Whether the policy will require current employees to notify their supervisor or other appropriate person when working assignments are in conflict with the nepotism policy.
- Whether the policy will provide an exceptions provision and a corresponding procedure for an employee or supervisor to request an exception to the policy.
- Whether the policy will include guidelines for addressing instances when a personal relationship arises during employment and how the department will address a personal relationship in violation of the policy (e.g., which employee will be transferred or reassigned and the process in carrying out that transfer or reassignment).
- Whether the policy will require notification of employment candidates in the interview or in the job posting and whether new employees will be required to certify they do not currently have a personal relationship in violation of the policy.
- Whether the policy includes guidelines for addressing nepotism complaints from employees such as who to report them to, who will investigate allegations, etc.
Many departments already have policy statements on nepotism. These departments should review their policies to determine if there is any need to update their statements or make them more specific to the needs of their organizations. Those departments without a nepotism policy should develop one.
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 25
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 250
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 50
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 66.1
- Government Code sections 18500 to 18502
- Government Code sections 19800 to 19811
- PML 2015-014: PML 2015-014 - 5/6/2015 - Statewide Guidance on Nepotism Policies
Personnel Services Branch
Personnel Program Consultant, Personnel Services Branch
Chief, Personnel Management Division