The Boss’s Husband Is a Jerk. Can Getting Along with Him Be Required?

I work for a woman-owned trucking company. Boss Lady has a husband that is always present, but he is not officially on any paperwork as he collects disability. This husband has verbally assaulted a particular driver on two occasions in the past week. As in yelling and chasing after the driver as the driver tried to get away from him. Now the driver has been told that he will only continue to be employed there if he is nice to the husband. My question is basically if this is legal? I feel it is but just frowned upon. I just wanted confirmation that this is the wrong way to run a business. Any response is appreciated. Thank you. 

Yelling and screaming at someone isn’t illegal behavior, even though it is horrible behavior. So assuming that it was just strictly verbal, the husband did nothing legally wrong. Morally wrong, yes. He’s a jerk and a horrible person. He shouldn’t be allowed around employees if he acts this way.

However, you’re right; it’s not illegal. As a general rule, bosses can make whatever rules they want as long as those rules don’t violate the law. So, getting along with the jerk husband can be required. Following the jerk husband’s command to do X or Y that violates federal trucking regulations (of which there are a ton), cannot be required.

It’s pretty irrelevant whether or not he’s employed there or just hanging out–which is the case. Just like the manager gets to decide which customers to kick out and which to serve, the owner here can decide to let her husband stay at her work.

One caveat–this assumes that the husband is an equal-opportunity jerk. If his jerky behavior isn’t just yelling “squid lip you!” at employees, but using sexual language, picking his victims based on race, gender, religion, etc, or anything else which violates the law, then the boss is obligated to step in.

HR Hero,  summed it up like this:

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other employment laws, employers must create and maintain a harassment-free workplace, and that obligation extends to nonemployees and customers. As a result, if someone who isn’t an employee engages in behavior that violates the law, you are required to step in and protect your employees. That typically requires some knowledge of what’s happening, an investigation, and remedial action.

So, if Jerk Husband violates this than your boss is obligated, under federal law, to intervene and shut him down.

That ain’t gonna happen without outside intervention, most likely.

So, what can you do? You can certainly bring it to her attention, and that tends to work best when everyone bands together to tell her that her husband’s behavior is unacceptable. If he’s violating the law, you can file a complaint with the EEOC. Other than that, you can either be nice to the husband or get the heck out of Dodge. Preferably, the latter, as a whole group, but I totally get it if you decide just to tolerate it. Finding a job isn’t easy and if you’re truckers, you’re probably not in the jerk’s presence all that often.

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15 thoughts on “The Boss’s Husband Is a Jerk. Can Getting Along with Him Be Required?

  1. Are you sure the question “is it legal” wasn’t attached to “Now the driver has been told that he will only continue to be employed there if he is nice to the husband”?

    1. I’m sure it was! Since the jerk husband’s behavior isn’t illegal (assuming the caveats above), it can, indeed be a requirement to be nice to him.

      1. There’s a legal requirement to “not be a jerk back,” almost certainly.

        Indifferently reacting to them, for example would fulfil this; monosyllabic answers when required, speaking only when shouted at etc.

        But legally required “to be *nice*?”

        Unless I’m reading too much into that word.

        (BTW, the “notify by email” doesn’t appear to be working – and I’ve checked the spam folder.)

        1. > the “notify by email” doesn’t appear to be working

          Ignore that, got it just after that second post.

        2. It’s not a legal requirement for drivers “to be nice” to the jerkface hubby, it’s a JOB requirement, and it’s legal for the boss to make that a job requirement.

          1. The way I interpreted the “nice” in the question was to be obsequious towards the hubby and take whatever verbal abuse the hubby throws at him instead of simply walking away if it happens again or simply stand there and not say a thing.

            Now if that can be job requirement, then personally I’d rather not have the job, leave, and possibly sue for constructive dismissal – but I’m in the UK, not sure that would work in the US where I presume this is happening.

            1. PJH, I just subscribed to comments and it sent me an email asking for confirmation, so I don’t know what’s happening!

              Also, constructive discharge is usually limited to when illegal things are happening, not just rude ones.

  2. Been there done it. I once had a project, in the Dallas and Fort Worth Area. Fort Worth actually. The COO at the time, soon to be CIO. Felt it okay to scream at everyone on the phone. And in person it would seem. I cannot repeat what I said or he said but neither he or I am there, most of all he is no longer there. I only wish that more people were on the phone that day. The day I told the COO screamer to KMA short for (kiss my?). This was after several warnings, 7 interviews, 6 candidates failed. Did I fail? I told the new CEO to KMA, on the phone, for all to hear. After 7 one on one interviews, he was not available at the time. Everyone I interviewed with – gone. No long exist at that company.

    21 years in the industry or 1. Do you honestly believe I or anyone else has the right to berate you. Yell at you. Curse you? It happens. It happened to my wife, they lost. It happened to me numerous times, guess who won. Guess how many times I lost (50/50).

    You want a story, publish a story about how many people should never be hiring mangers. I had one last week, I lost the job because I emailed the that person, and cc’d his complete team. Why, from second one we disagreed, he felt he knew more, I disagreed. He asked questions that had no relevance to my resume. Not a single question that related back to the job description. Now I was told, ahead of time, to watch out for this guy. Yet somehow, this person made the decision, if you compare his experience, and references to mine, should never hire anyone. Might be a technical genius , yet should never interview or decide who is hired. As much as LinkedIn as declined for IT, I heard the same story over and over again. That day, in 10 minutes, guy A despised me. I had more experience, more accomplishments, more certifications and more recommendations ( As typical, it was through a recruiter, HR no longer exist HR Lady, but it was for a team that was supposed the elite. The recruiter calls me and says look, the first Interview everyone signed off, second interview this person did not. I said, don’t worry about it. Next day, I sent said person an email, CCing the entire team how he had missed the prior to interview sessions. How he kept complaining about how he had a plane to catch. Never asked one single relevant question. And, has a habit, of never showing up for group interviews. Apparently, likes to interview, alone – on the phone. Not in person. Despite all the complaints I heard, not a single person said anything. This guy had been there 6 months, prior company 1 year, 1 year before that – it was the Hiring Manager that was the obstacle. He (if she I would state it) actually believed the words coming out of this guys mouth. I get the weekly recap of their failure. More his failure. And the hiring manager. Every week, the bar is lowered. I personally sent him and the team and manager an email stating this person should never interview anyone in this lifetime. Should have no decision in the hiring process. And I’ve built 2 data centers, migrated 7, managed 4 teams of thirty people. At leadership request, not mine. I would post his profile, by Angry HR Lady, might not like that so much. But that person, got everything that was coming to him that week. The Hiring Manager, oblivious to the mistake. Listening to the wrong person, tried to change it, and it never works – yet I do it anyway. Give me an HR person or team to deal with, then, maybe I’ll stop.

    1. Brian – if the email you sent was anything like this post, it was not taken seriously. Sorry to be harsh, but this is a rambling, error riddled mess.

    1. If the owner’s husband is the jerk and hangs out at hte office, dollars to donuts there is either no HR or impotent HR.

      This is why family owned businesses struggle–because sometimes you need to fire the family members and people won’t do it.

      If the organization is rotten at the top (which this one is, because the owner allows it), you’re not going to fix it.

      1. “. . .because sometimes you need to fire the family members and people won’t do it.”

        That isn’t a universal truth. By brother has fired his son dozens of times.

        1. Sounds like he has hired him back dozens of times as well. Still not a healthy working environment.

  3. Depending where the company is, it maybe subject to non-hostile work environment. If an employee is being subject to verbal assault and has given a quid pro quo (tolerating the owner’s husband’s behavior to continue employment), can be considered illegal employment practices. Harassment under hostile work environment in some states doesn’t have to be sexual or based on protected classes.

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