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What If Clinton Were a Missouri Employee

October 07, 1998
By: Zana Lo and Lee McGuire
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - If Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky had worked for the Missouri state government, then Clinton might have more to worry about than impeachment hearings.

In some of Missouri's executive departments, a sexual relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate could be grounds for dismissal.

Each executive department has its own policies concerning sexual harassment. Some department policies expressly prohibit personal relationships between certain co-workers. Other policies forbid sexual relations only if they're based upon unwelcome coercion, or if they create an uncomfortable working environment for others.

The sexual harassment policy at the Agriculture Department provides that "managers and supervisors shall not establish or maintain relationships of a sexual nature with any employee under their supervision."

Mary Hoskins, who conducts harassment training seminars in the Agriculture department, said that the policy was designed to be "explicit" on the subject of relationships between supervisors and subordinates.

"It's a situation with an obvious power differential, and it's important to make that clear," she said. "We decided to articulate that this is not a good thing for managers to engage in."

The Agriculture and Health departments are the only state executive agencies which explicitly prohibit supervisors from having sexual relationships with subordinates.

Hoskins said that her department included such a prohibition because "anytime you can be specific about the policy, you should be."

"There are always new issues that come up," she said. "Although this is a subject people know about, making it explicit makes for a better policy."

The state Health Department prohibits managers and supervisors from participating in "intimate, romantic or dating relationships with their subordinates or with employees involved in power-differentiated relationships," according to its sexual harassment policy.

The Department of Corrections, on the other hand, does not specifically forbid sexual relationships between supervisors and subordinates. But Tim Kniest, a spokesman for Corrections, said managers might keep an eye out for potential conflicts of interest, such as favoritism.

Likewise, Jim Coleman, spokesman for the Transportation Department, said his department does not explicitly consider sexual relationships between co-workers inappropriate. Still, he added, the sexual harassment policy and the department's code of conduct imply that such relationships are not encouraged.

Coleman said his department's policy "does not specifically have anything that covers interpersonal relationships. Married couples cannot directly supervise each other, but it doesn't say that a boss can't date a subordinate. But even though it doesn't specifically say it's prohibited, the policy implies it wouldn't be a wise thing to do.

"Our policies deal with one person offering unsolicited, uninitiated, uncomfortable advances," he said. "But the idea of co-workers dating, or supervisors dating subordinates, could fall under our general code of conduct. That says you don't do anything which brings discredit to the department."