How does adultery affect my work?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “Will having an adulterous affair affect my employment with my company?” 

This is a great question. One that came front and center in August of 2015 when a group calling themselves “The Impact Team” hacked Ashley Madison, an internet site which facilitates extra-marital affairs, and released more than 25 gigabytes of company data, including user details. Suddenly, thousands of users feared that their adulterous affairs would be made public, including information about their cheating, account details, log-ins and credit card information.

Employment and adultery 

Now, you asked how your employer would view your adulterous affair. Unfortunately, this question is not as simple as you might think. If you work at the Quickie Lube and you are not dealing with governmental secrets, your employer may not care at all that you’re having an affair with Susan from the night shift. 

If, however, you are a federal employee, on active military duty, or you work for any other governmental agency the questions regarding your personal life and personal use of your work computer while you are at work is much more complicated.

Federal government investigation of adultery

The federal government is always concerned about any activities which can be a violation of personnel or security matters. For employees with a heightened security clearance the expectation that their private lives will be clean and above board is higher, the assumption being that anyone with a questionable personal life has an increased risk of being bribed or extorted.

In fact, when the Ashley Madison scandal broke in 2015 the government began an investigation into the more than 15,000 e-mail addresses of government workers who were possible adulterers to see if their extramarital activity on work time amounted to anything punishable.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security has security policies which specifically state that the “viewing, downloading, storing, transmitting or copying materials that are sexually explicit or sexually oriented, related to gambling, illegal weapons, terrorist activities, or any other prohibited activities is an inappropriate personal use of government office equipment.”

So not only could the federal government consider your affair to be a security risk if you have a certain type of job, if you spend valuable time at work using company resources to conduct behaviors which they deem “inappropriate” then you might also find yourself in trouble.

After the Ashley Madison scandal whether or not the federal government decided to take any action against the offending employees depended on the government’s stated employment policies and whether the employee's actions violated those policies.

For example, after the scandal broke the Department of Defense stated that they would perform an investigation and evaluate credible evidence regarding each employee and the employee's actions.  Then following the investigation the appropriate government official would make a determination of what action should be taken against the employee.

Negative effects of an affair

So should you be concerned about an affair? Unless you are a government official, in a job that requires upstanding personal conduct (i.e. minister), you have misused your employer’s resources, or the affair is with someone (such as a subordinate) and is strictly forbidden by company policies, it’s unlikely your employer will care much about your affair.

An affair, however, can destroy your family, ruin a relationship with your children, and forever harm those you most care for and love. It’s these detrimental consequences that spouses should consider before initiating an adulterous affair.


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