Was It Retaliation When My Boss Fired Me For Being “Disrespectful and Jealous”?

Question: My ex-boss and I have been friends for a long time. In fact, starting six years ago we were close while he was going through a hard patch in his marriage, but due to him being married things did not go further than that, though years later we did sleep together.

Fast forward to the recent. I was promoted to management. Obviously we spent most of our time together because we essentially ran the business together. I ended things with my BF. And his GF actually ended things with him because she thought we were having an affair because of how close we were. We weren’t. But after she was gone us both being single we spent more time together, he confided in me about things, and we eventually slept together.

He told me how much he cared about me, took me out on dates. I was foolish in believing that and ended up loaning him $10,000 to help out the business that was financially struggling. Then our relationship completely ended somehow.

I found out he was sleeping with someone else and I told him how hurt I was, used I felt, etc. He said he wanted to talk to me about it, that he had a sex addiction problem and needed help and that he cared about me so much we would work on this. We never talked.

I noticed a new employee I hired constantly called him, messaged him, went to him with issues rather than me, at one point changed the schedule, leaving us short staffed and forgot to mention it to me. I messaged him and asked if he thought I couldn’t do my job, and asked if that is why she came to him and she is not following the rules. He blew up and said a lot of hurtful things to me about it all being in my head.

Fast forward, in comes an ex-GF of his telling me that even though he has admitted to sleeping with the co-worker he and I argued about, she and him are working on things. I messaged him later about how upset I was that he had lied to me and never talked to me about what happened between us like he promised.  I also questioned him about sleeping with the other staff and told him that is why they did not listen to me. He again said a lot of mean and hurtful things and told me we were done and that I was just a jealous bitch. Then he told me to mail in my key and that I was fired.

All three arguments that we have gotten into were not at work and were only between us privately, and they were about our sexual relationship. We have never fought beyond that or about anything else. We both did our jobs at work the same and treated each other the same on the clock, and never told anyone about the personal relationship. When I asked why he fired me he said the disrespect in how I talked to him during our fights and that after we slept together it made him feel like he was walking on egg shells.

Is this retaliation? Him firing me over our personal sexual relationship ending, and us fighting about this privately? Again, we had always had a close personal relationship prior to this as well, so us talking every day and night even prior to sleeping together was not out of the norm, so I wasn’t randomly messaging him and harassing him. And he said it was something we would talk about. And there were never any fights pertaining to work. There are just no grounds on me losing my job that I can see, because it never affected us at work. Just like that, I was fired and out $10,000.

Response: Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. Your question is below and is another situation where a romance with “the boss” starts out romantically then ends unpleasantly. Relationships away from work may follow the same path, but in those cases, being fired is not the potential result.

We are not lawyers or experts on matters related to sexual harassment claims, so for accurate advice you should talk to an attorney or seek information on-line or by phone from your regional Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They handle cases involving sexual harassment and retaliation about complaints. Usually such federal regulations apply to businesses with fifteen or more employees.

Based on my past research about these matters, it does not appear to me that you would have a basis for legal or civil action regarding being fired. Again, you should consult an expert about the matter. However, you might have a civil claim regarding your loan to your former boss/partner. The problem is that an attorney would charge more than the amount you loaned your boss. It would  help if you have something in writing where he promised he would pay you back (even an email thanking you and saying he will pay you back will do). If you have that, you might at least imply that you will take it further if he does not pay you back over a reasonable period of time. Another option is to look for a Small Claims Court in your region and find out how to seek payment without an attorney.

The bottom line to your situation is that you had an affair with your boss that you kept secret from other employees. Then you found out he was being unfaithful to you with at least one of those employees. You continued the relationship and on several occasions argued with him about his unfaithfulness to you. Finally, he said you were talking to him disrespectfully and acting jealous, so he fired you.

The fact that he said you talked to him disrespectfully when you argued, should indicate that in his mind you were an employee not an equal in the business. Your work may have been completely acceptable, it was your behavior that made him want to have you out of the picture.

It sounds like you and one or more of the other female employees were part of his workplace harem and he didn’t like having arguments about it. It also sounds as though the only way you could have stayed working there would have been to accept your role as just one of several women in his life.

Your only realistic option is to use your management experience to find other employment and quickly put this situation behind you. I hope you can get your money back by simply asking him for it and setting up a repayment schedule. I don’t expect he will be able to pay you back in one check, but he may accept the idea of paying you back over a year or 18 months.

Best wishes to you as you take control of your life and get away from this unpleasant situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know about your efforts and results.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

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.