South-Western Legal Studies in Business

City May Limit Right of Employees to Romantic Relationship with Other Employees
Description Appeals court held that a police department policy that employees could not be involved in a personal relationship with other employees of different ranks was rationally related to the governmental interest of limiting sexual harassment suits. As such, there was no violation of the employees' First Amendment rights.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words First Amendment; Right of Association; Dating; Employment
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Anderson, a police officer for the City of LaVergne, Tennessee, began a romantic relationship with Lewis, an administrative assistant for the police department. The Chief of Police then ordered the two to "cease all contact with each other" outside of the workplace. The chief believed that intra-office dating between employees of different ranks might lead to sexual harassment claims against the department. The two continued dating despite the order, but they soon ended their relationship and Anderson was involved in "some sort" of disturbance at the department. Anderson was told to resign or be fired, so he resigned. He sued the city, alleging that the order violated his First Amendment right of intimate association. A jury awarded Anderson $10,300 in back pay and $5,500 intangible damages. The city appealed.
Decision

Reversed and remanded. The limit on dating of employees of different ranks is not a direct and substantial interference with employees' intimate associations, since they may have relationships with employees of the same rank or non-employees. The policy is subject to a rational basis review. The policy was rationally related to a legitimate government interest in avoiding sexual harassment suits, so the policy did not violate Anderson's rights.

Citation Anderson v. City of LaVergne, 371 F.3d 879 (6th Cir., 2004)

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