The NBA’s Boston Celtics have suspended head coach Ime Udoka for the upcoming season for violating team policies. ESPN reported he had an improper intimate relationship with a female member of the organization.
This is a suspension by the Celtics, and not the NBA, and will be for the entirety of the 2022-’23 season. His future with the team will be decided “at a later date,” the Celtics said.
In a statement to ESPN, Udoka, who led the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season, apologized to his players, Celtics fans and his family, and said he will “accept the team’s decision.”
Udoka, 45, is engaged to actress Nia Long and has a child with her.
It’s common for companies and organizations to have specific rules in their codes of conduct that detail which types of relationships are and are not permitted. In this case, the relationship is in fact a violation of the organization’s guidelines, the team said.
While office romances may lead to discipline in the workplace, they are not against the law.
“There is nothing in law which restricts co-workers from engaging in relationships,” Stephen Woodhouse, an employment solicitor at Stephensons Solicitors in the U.K., told CNBC about work romances. “However, complications can arise particularly when there’s an imbalance of power or where colleagues complain of favoritism as a result of these close relations.”
A report from ESPN about Udoka’s suspension did not give further detail about the improper workplace relationship, only that it is an individual who works for the team.
The Boston Celtics did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for comment on this story.
“Many employers will discourage office romances and completely ban them between managers or supervisors and employees because of the legal complications these relationships can cause,” law information database HG.org states.
Managers or executives having improper intimate relationships with employees is not a new phenomenon, of course, and many leaders have been let go from their positions after news of such relationships became public.
In recent years, McDonald’s MCD, -1.25% CEO Steve Easterbook was fired for having a relationship with an employee, Intel INTC, -1.40% CEO Brian Krzanich stepped down after the company learned of “a past, consensual relationship with an employee,” and Boeing BA, -3.20% CEO Harry Stonecipher was ousted after having a relationship with an executive. Oftentimes, these improper relationships involve a male leader or manager.
A 2022 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management indicated a third of U.S. workers (33 %) say that they’re currently in or have at one time been involved in a workplace romance. The poll does not ask specifically about office romances between managers and employees.