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Reviewed 07/2013

Nepotism

Contents

Introduction

Nep-o-tism: Favoritism shown or patronage granted to relatives, as in business. [French nepotisme, from Italian nepotismo, from nepote, nephew, from Latin nepos, nepot-.1] (From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition)

In the State of Washington, all local governments have the authority to establish rules and regulations governing their internal operation. Generally, it might be considered unfair to refuse to consider hiring or retaining an employee simply because of a degree of relationship with another person. Such discrimination factors are covered in RCW 49.60.180, RCW 49.60.190, and RCW 49.60.200, dealing with unfair labor practices. However, the Washington Administrative Code, at 162-16-250, clarifies such regulation under the term "business necessity."

A number of Washington municipalities prohibit nepotism in some degree. In order to assist other municipalities considering such a regulation, several nepotism ordinances and policies are set out below.

State Regulation

For the most part, state law does not address nepotism, except to the extent that three labor-related statutes prohibit discrimination based upon marital status. The three statutes (RCW 49.60.180, RCW 49.60.190, and RCW 49.60.200) are implemented by WAC 162-16-250, which covers discrimination because of a spousal relationship. The regulation allows different treatment of an employee's spouse if there is a justification under a "business necessity." Business necessity permits action, which might otherwise be determined discriminatory, as a bona fide occupational qualification exception to the general rule prohibiting discrimination.

WAC 162-16-250 - Discrimination because of spouse

Documents

  • Ellensburg Personnel Policies Manual Sec. 3.6, Employment of Relatives (Nepotism), 12/21/2009 - Based upon business necessity; includes policy for change in circumstances
  • Goldendale Personnel Policy Sec. 3.5 - Employment of Relatives, 01/06/2003 - Based on business necessity; defines relatives based upon those closer than fourth degree as defined in RCW 11.02.005(5). Includes change of condition provision.
  • Olympia Administrative Guidelines Guideline No. 8, Nepotism (Adobe Acrobat Document), 01/1997 - City generally will not hire a relative of current employee, including parent, stepparent, adopted or foster child, daughter or son-in-law, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and domestic partners, among others, primarily based upon business necessity.
  • Snohomish County Code Personnel Policies Sec. 3A.12.050 (Adobe Acrobat Document) - Employment of Relatives, 02/07/2001 - County to avoid practice or appearance of nepotism and employment of spouse or close relative, if business necessity exists.
  • Tacoma Municipal Code Sec. 1.24.725 (Adobe Acrobat Document) - Employment of Immediate Family, revised 12/2011
  • Thurston County Personnel Rules and Policies Ch.5, No.4 (Adobe Acrobat Document) - Employment of Relatives, 06/11/2007 - No member of immediate family may be employed in same office or department as current employee or board member, but with exceptions.
  • Woodinville Municipal Code Sec. 2.36.025 - Nepotism - Limits employment of an employee's immediate family, a term defined to mean "spouse, registered domestic partner, child, parent, brother and sister, mother and father-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, aunt and uncle, grandparents, grandchildren, or step-relatives or domestic partner-relatives in one of these relationships."

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