Work Relationships

  1. Employing Family or Household Members
    For the purpose of this policy statement:
    1. Immediate family includes husband and wife; son and daughter (including stepchildren); grandchildren; son- and daughter-in-law; parents (including stepparents); grandparents; father- and mother-in-law; brother and sister (including stepbrother and stepsister); and brother- and sister-in-law.
    2. Household includes individuals regularly sharing the staff member's residence.


    Harvard University recognizes that members of a family or the same household may work in the same department or unit. However, in the interests of fairness and to avoid issues of favoritism or any potential conflict of interest, no employee may initiate or participate in, directly or indirectly, decisions involving a direct benefit to a member of the employee's immediate family, domestic partner or member of the same household. Direct benefits include, but are not limited to, hiring, salary and salary adjustments, promotion and work assignments.

    Persons should not be employed in positions where they will be subject to the close supervisory authority of a member of their immediate family or household or where a member of their immediate family or household, in the ordinary course of business, makes decisions or plays a significant role in making decisions concerning their direct benefits. In situations where this policy would be applicable, but the department is large enough that decisions concerning direct benefits and supervision can be made without the participation of the immediate family or household member of the person employed, hiring and other employment decisions should be made on the appropriateness of the situation, without reference to this policy.

    In some instances, the University's policy of preserving the confidentiality of records or other materials may make it inappropriate for a member of an employee’s immediate family or household have access or perform duties pertaining to confidential records at the University. For example, it is usually inappropriate for someone to have access to records concerning the performance of a member of his or her immediate family or household.

    While general responsibility for ensuring adherence to this policy must rest with those responsible for appointments and assignments, a particular responsibility for sensitivity to the potential conflicts falls on those employees who work or expect they may work with family or members of the same household.

    Employees who are interested in recommending family or household members for positions at the University should refer them to the local human resources contact. Exceptions to this policy, which applies to all categories of employment at the University, require the written approval of the appropriate dean or vice president.

    If employees have questions regarding the application of this policy they should contact their local human resource office or the Office of Employee Relations and Policy.

  2. Consensual Relationships

    In cases where a consensual relationship exists between individuals in inherently unequal positions of authority, it is important that the person in the position of greater authority does not exercise any supervisory or evaluative function over the other person in the relationship. Accordingly, the person in the position of greater authority must notify his or her local human resource officer to evaluate the situation and ensure that alternate supervisory or evaluative arrangements are put in place.

    Some schools and units may have stricter policies on consensual relationships, and this policy is not intended to displace such policies.

Last updated: 04/19/2009