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Alienation of Affections Reforms Would Shield NC Employers

    Client Alerts
  • July 17, 2009

North Carolina is one of the few remaining states to allow spouses to sue third persons for "alienation of affections."  Alienation lawsuits seek monetary damages for interfering in the marital relationship.  Most states eliminated the tort years ago, concluding that it represented an antiquated version of the marital relationship, and was primarily used by former spouses looking for revenge in response to an adulterous situation.

A bill pending before the North Carolina General Assembly would not eliminate the alienations of affection tort, but would substantially restrict its use.  For employers, the most important provision of the bill would bar the use of the claim against corporations.  There have been a handful of claims in North Carolina filed against employers by the spouse of the employee.  These suits alleged that the employer knew of an interoffice adulterous relationship, and essentially facilitated the affair by allowing the involved employees to remain working together.  While no reported case has found an employer guilty of alienation of affections, North Carolina courts have suggested that in appropriate circumstances, the employer could be liable for this conduct.

While most employers do not simply turn a blind eye to an adulterous relationship in the workplace, statutory elimination of the possibility of an alienation of affections lawsuit would provide companies with protection from claims by disgruntled spouses.