5.2.2 Nepotism & Personal Relationships in the Workplace

Policy Section: Conditions of Employment

Policy Number and Title: 5.2.2 Nepotism & Personal Relationships in the Workplace
Applicable to: All Employees
Effective Date: October 8, 2018

Last Update: March 5, 2018

Policy Description

Princeton University permits the hiring within the college community of individuals of the same family or those who have a personal relationship. However, hiring regular, term, or temporary employees within the same department normally is prohibited for individuals of the same family or for those who have a personal relationship (see policy 2.1.5 Hiring Members of the Same Family or Household).

Additionally, to avoid a conflict of interest or an appearance of conflict of interest, no employee may initiate or participate in, directly or indirectly, decisions involving a direct benefit, e.g., initial hire or rehire, promotion, salary, performance appraisals, work assignments or other working conditions to those related by blood or marriage, membership in the same household, including domestic partners, or persons with whom employees have an intimate relationship.

The potential for conflict of interest may also exist in close personal relationships which involve other than family relationships. The University views such conflicts of interest as seriously as it does those involving family members or blood relatives.

Application of This Policy

Definition of Relationships
To avoid a conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest, the definition of “relationships,” which is covered by this policy, should be interpreted very broadly.
In considering whether a relationship falls within this policy, all employees are urged to disclose the facts if there is any doubt rather than fail to disclose in cases where a relationship exists or existed in the past.

Additionally, this policy applies to all types of hire and employment.

All employees are responsible to raise potential issues to the attention of their supervisors or through the University's hotline

Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationship
Conflict of interest also exists when there is a consensual romantic or sexual relationship in the context of employment supervision or evaluation. Therefore, no supervisor may influence, directly or indirectly, salary, promotion, performance appraisals, work assignments or other working conditions for an employee with whom such a relationship exists.

Supervisors involved in a consensual romantic or sexual relationship, in the context of supervision, must discuss the matter on a confidential basis with their own supervisor or with the Office of Human Resources to assess the implications for the workplace and make arrangements to ensure that employment-related decisions are made in an appropriate and unbiased setting.

Although both employees involved in a consensual relationship are individually responsible for disclosure, a supervisor's failure to report such a relationship will be regarded as a serious lapse in the management of the workplace and grounds for appropriate disciplinary action, including termination (particularly in cases where bias or harassment has occurred in connection with a benefit). 

Consensual romantic or sexual relationships between staff members and undergraduate students are prohibited.

Supervisor’s Responsibility
A supervisor bears an affirmative responsibility for sustaining a positive workplace environment and one which is conducive to the professional growth of all employees.

A supervisor must be regarded as trustworthy and fair for such an environment to exist. It is important to understand that, even when arrangements have been made to minimize conflicts of interest regarding particular employment-related decisions, it is necessarily more difficult for a supervisor to be fair when a close relationship exists with an employee.

Disruption to the workplace can be particularly acute when a sexual or romantic relationship involving a supervisor is known to exist but cannot be discussed openly.

Supervisors should also understand that even in a consenting relationship there are substantial risks of charges of sexual harassment or favoritism when supervision is involved. 

Report of Relationship
Supervisors who receive a report that someone who reports to them is involved in a consensual romantic or sexual relationship with an employee the supervisor supervises will be expected to speak confidentially with the person(s) involved. If the relationship exists, appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that decisions are made in an unbiased setting. 
Annual Disclosure Form
All employees must complete the Annual Disclosure and Certification Form. The supervisor should review the disclosure form with the employee and confirm that no potential for conflict of interest exists. 
Individuals who have questions or are uncertain as to the application of this policy should speak in confidence to the Office of Human Resources or with an employee assistance counselor through Carebridge Corporation.

Related Documents

Other Policies


Office of Human Resources
(609) 258-3300
Update Log

12/2014: Revised to denote application of this policy to all types of hiring situations.

3/5/2018: Revised to clarify prohibition on relationships between staff and undergraduate students.

10/8/2018: Revised to clarify types employees of employees affected