Caught In The Middle Of A Coworker’s Divorce

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accusations of an affair:

I am a manager in in customer service department. One of our staff member informed me that he is going through a nasty divorce and that his wife accused him and me in court of having an affair. He wants me to testify in court that this is not true. I have informed my boss and HR. HR states that this is a personal matter and provided me a hot line lawyer service. I called the hot line and they advised me that this is a conflict of interest and they cannot help me get legal advice.

My husband received a strange call about 10 months ago on our unlisted home phone from a woman stating his wife was having an affair at work. I informed my boss at the time, as I felt this had to be someone at work since my phone is published at work and I am on call.I am very upset about this situation as I have been married for 31 years and a middle manager with this company since 1995.

I feel bad for the employee going through this difficult situation and the 2 children in the middle. However I also think this woman is not in a stable mental state. I am afraid she may try to harm me if things don’t go her way. I have met the family at work functions such as picnic, showers etc. I don’t believe she knows where I live but feel confident she could find out. I have never met her husband outside the work environment and he has never reported to me. Do you think I get a lawyer? Should my employer be doing something to protect me physically. What about my reputation? I feel I am in the middle of a mess and no one to turn to.

Signed, Stuck and Concerned

Dear Stuck and Concerned:

I think you should consult with an attorney, at least on an advisory basis, to find out your rights as well as to get information about things you need to do or not do, at this point. If you do not know an attorney, considering contact the bar association and asking what kind of attorney they would recommend. I’m sorry to feel that is necessary, but I think at least one consultation would be beneficial. Do not testify unless you are subpoenaed to do so, and if you are subpoenaed make sure you contact an attorney to advise you about it.

You are legally bound to respond to a subpoena, but there are many different ways of responding and an attorney can assist you. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable telling the employee that you do not want to become part of his divorce hearing, you might want an attorney to tell his attorney for you. That way you can tell the employee that your attorney has advised you not to do it.

You don’t say why you think the woman would go so far as to cause you physical harm. However, if you really believe that she would or could, you should contact HR in writing, through your manager. Ask that anyone screening visitors to your office area be given a description of the woman involved. Ask that no one summon you to meet with someone without giving you full details about it. And, ask that no visitors be told whether or not you are present or where you might be in the building.

Follow-up to make sure that has been done and if not, you might need an attorney to request it. Sad to say, but sometimes a lawyer has more influence over such things.Find out from your coworker a full description of the car his soon-to-be ex-wife is driving, so you can be aware of it. Let your family know about the descriptions of the wife and her vehicle, so they will also be alert.

All of those actions will help you keep control over your involvement in this situation. Your goal should be to have as little to do with it as possible. You will also be more certain that you do not inadvertently create a problem at work.If I were you I would be upset and irritated that the employee did not talk to you long before this. If he knew he was getting a divorce and knew his wife suspected you and he of having an affair, he should have told you before his wife made a public statement.If you had known earlier you could have had an attorney warn his wife’s attorney that she should not make unfounded and unprovable accusations.

I also wonder what the employee has said or done that would lead his wife to suspect you. It may be harmless–he might have simply talked about you in a friendly way. Or it might be that he has hinted you two were involved, or hinted about you to keep her from finding out about someone else.Whatever the situation, it is a personal matter between him and his wife. Apart from contacting HR and your manager about the safety issue, I think the less you say about it at work, the better, and the less you are involved, the better. Best wishes to you in this very awkward and unfortunate situation. I hope it is resolved soon and you can put it all behind you.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.