Should I Contact the Employer of “the Other Woman”?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about whether or not to contact the employer of the woman with whom her husband had an affair. 

Your question:
My husband has admitted to having an affair with a woman who began contacting him through his work email via her work email. They work at two separate companies. My husband has since ended the relationship and confessed of inappropriate talk and exchanging pictures (all photos were exchanged over text so this would not pertain to my question) with the woman who was separated from her husband but their divorce was not finalized.

I am thinking about contacting her employer at a CPA firm to discuss their policies on using company email for private “affairs”. My husband and I are trying to work through this and I feel like teaching her a lesson would keep her away from a married man.

Response:
We are a site about workplace communications and how to improve communication effectiveness, but perhaps we can provide some information that might be useful as you decide what to do about your situation.

1. We are not attorneys, so we don’t know if there are civil actions that could be taken in your state if your reporting of this situation results in monetary or emotional harm to the woman involved. You may want to talk to an attorney about it or do some online research about lawsuits in such cases. It is something to seriously consider.

2. Most companies have rules about how company email can be used, but many of the rules involve emails between employees, emails about the company to others or contents that are illegal by their nature. Emails that involve romantic or sexual content are a concern if they are between a boss and subordinate. Otherwise, in most cases I know about, a verbal or written warning is the maximum that has happened. In the situation to which you refer, even that isn’t certain, especially since the relationship is now over.

3. The one element that might make a difference is if you have evidence that shows the number of emails was outrageously excessive, such as one every few minutes, for many workdays. Then, an employer would be concerned about whether work was being done at all. If there were no more than a few a day, that probably wouldn’t be considered excessive or an abuse of time.

4. A warning: If Ms. X is well-liked or if she has gone through some bad times involving her ex-husband, (or if her boss sees the emails and thinks your husband encouraged the situation) her manager or supervisor might resent the idea of you trying to get her in trouble. They might decide to fire back by contacting your husband’s company to tell them about his emails to their employee. Or, the woman involved may do it, under the guise of feeling harassed by you as a result of comments made by her husband. That could be a disaster and certainly would not make your marriage stronger.

Further, they may decide your letter to them indicates enough anger on your part that you could be a potential threat to Ms. X. So, instead of making her appear badly or making her feel guilty, you will portray her as the victim of an angry wife whose husband is the real villain in the affair.

The bottom line of our response is that it seems nothing good will be gained by contacting the employer of the woman with whom your husband had a relationship. She may have already learned her lesson and deeply regrets her behavior, just as your husband does. If she doesn’t regret it and intends to look for someone else, she won’t care. More than likely, little or nothing will be done by the employer. Even if it is, you will never know about it but will always wonder, keeping it going in your mind.

Your husband is probably very glad to have the relationship over and grateful to be able to fully concentrate on his marriage and on you and your future together. Your inner strength, combined with your love for your husband, can help make that future all that you want it to be. Best wishes to you!

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors