1204 - Nepotism
- Employee Relations Officers
- Personnel Officers
- Personnel Transactions Supervisors
- Provides the definition of nepotism and personal relationships.
- Provides the required components to be included in an appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy, including what personal relationships are strictly prohibited.
- Identifies other potentially sensitive situations where nepotism may occur.
- Discusses the factors a department should consider when evaluating the potential impact of a personal relationship.
- Identifies other types of work relationships that may apply to nepotism.
- Examines other factors or components an appointing power 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.
Article VII of the California State Constitution, statutes and State Personnel Board rules provide that all civil service appointments shall be made according to a merit-based selection process.
Nepotism is when an employee uses the employee’s influence or power to hire, transfer, or promote an applicant or employee because of a personal relationship, which is contrary to the merit-based civil service system, and therefore is prohibited in the state workplace. Moreover, nepotism undermines the public’s trust that government is free from corruption.
Nepotism may also lower morale and reduce the work productivity of state employees. Consequently, when appointments are made based on personal relationships rather than qualifications, then the work of the state government is less likely to be performed efficiently and effectively.
In order to ensure that appointing powers safeguard the state’s merit-based civil service system, civil service rules require appointing powers to establish and administer an anti-nepotism policy that includes certain components in accordance with California Code Regulations title 2, section 87.
As such, this policy section shall first define personal relationships and then broadly outline the required anti-nepotism policy components. Last, this policy section shall discuss how to develop and administer an effective anti-nepotism policy.
California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 83.6 defines personal relationship as persons related by blood, adoption, current or former marriage, domestic partnership or cohabitation. Cohabitation means living with another person while in a romantic relationship without being married or in a domestic partnership.
Anti-Nepotism Policy Components
According to California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 87, anti-nepotism policies shall include the following components:
- A statement that the appointing power is committed to merit-based hiring and that nepotism is antithetical to a merit-based civil service system.
- A definition of “nepotism” as an employee’s use of influence or power to hire, transfer, or promote an applicant or employee because of a personal relationship.
- A definition of “personal relationship” as persons related by blood, adoption, current or former marriage, domestic partnership or cohabitation. Requiring disclosure of relationships beyond these categories may violate an employee’s or applicant’s right to privacy.
- A statement that prohibits participation in the selection of an applicant for employment by anyone who has a personal relationship with the applicant.
- A statement that prohibits the direct or first-line supervision of an employee with whom the supervisor has a personal relationship.
- A process for addressing issues of direct supervision when personal relationships exist between employees.
Developing Anti-Nepotism Policies
In addition to the components identified in California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 87, a nepotism policy should include instructions on addressing specific situations unique to the appointing power’s workplace.
For instance, an appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy may address those sensitive situations where persons who have a personal relationship work in a small unit in close association or where persons who have a personal relationship work for the same supervisor. The appointing power should develop a process within their anti-nepotism policy which communicates to management how to identify and remedy any potential impacts of personal relationships. This should also include guidelines for addressing instances when a personal relationship arises during employment and how the appointing power 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).
Additionally, there may be situations where it is appropriate for two individuals who have a personal relationship to work in the same program or activity. Again, the appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy should clearly communicate the guidelines for acceptable personal relationships within the same program or activity and how these types of situations will be addressed by management.
When evaluating the potential impact of personal relationships, the appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy should explain that the appointing power will 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. 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 appointing power 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 restrictions on personal relationships within the workplace. Additionally, the appointing power should be careful not to include provisions in the policy that violate an employee’s right to privacy, such as, requiring disclosure of relationships that fall outside the definition of personal relationships in California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 87. This should be carefully laid out in any appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy.
California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 87 requires that an appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy strictly prohibit the direct or first-line supervision of an employee with whom the supervisor has a personal relationship. However, in all other instances, anti-nepotism policies should afford appointing powers the ability to evaluate each situation and determine whether the relationship has an adverse impact on the workplace.
Moreover, the appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy should also clearly communicate to employees how and to whom they should report personal relationships and/or conduct that may violate the appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy. The policy should also identify who will investigate the allegations.
Anti-Nepotism Policies and the Hiring Process
California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 87 requires that an appointing power’s anti-nepotism policy prohibit participation in the selection of an applicant for employment by anyone who has a personal relationship with the applicant. In practice, the appointing power should consider what processes should be instituted within the hiring process to support this policy component.
For instance, the appointing power may require that all those participating in the hiring process notify the appointing power if they have a personal relationship with any of the applicants. The processes should ultimately support the prohibition against any employee who has a personal relationship with an applicant from participating in the hiring process.
In order to safeguard the merit civil service selection process from nepotistic behavior and/or actions, the appointing power shall always prepare and retain documentation demonstrating which activities were conducted during the hiring process and the reasons for the hiring decision, which may include a written memorandum summarizing and explaining the rationale of the appointing power’s hiring decision.
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 25
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 250
- Government Code sections 18500 to 18502
- Government Code sections 19800 to 19811
- California Code of Regulations, title 2 section 83.5
- California Code of Regulations, title 2 section 83.6
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 11057
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 86
- California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 87
- Government Code sections 12940 to 12951
Chief, Personnel Management Division
Chief, Policy Division, State Personnel Board
Personnel Management Division Personnel Management Division
Personnel Management Consultant , Personnel Management Division
Superseded PoliciesNot Applicable.
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