Can I give a job to my relative in Texas?

Hiring a relative can seem like a simple way to ensure you work with someone you know and trust. However, there are limits on giving a job to your relatives, or nepotism, in Texas.

If you work for certain government entities or are an elected official, know that there are strict policies on nepotism. Violating these can have costly consequences for all involved parties.

Understanding consanguinity and affinity

Nepotism rules specify two types of relationships:

  • Consanguinity is a blood relationship, including those between biological siblings, nieces and nephews, and parents.
  • Affinity is the relationship between spouses. 

Each of these has different levels. A parent or child is considered the first degree of consanguinity; a sibling relationship is second degree of consanguinity; aunts, uncles and great-grandparents are third degree of consanguinity. 

Similarly, first degree of affinity is the relationship between spouses, while blood relatives of a spouse would reflect affinity in the second degree.

Placing limits on nepotism

Depending on your business and role, nepotism laws restrict hiring certain degrees of consanguinity and affinity. 

For instance, Texas elected officials cannot give a job to anyone within three degrees of consanguinity or two degrees of affinity.

And recently, a Texas regional water district strengthened its rules on nepotism. Under the new policy, water district staff cannot hire anyone within three degrees of consanguinity or someone they are dating or with whom they are in a domestic partnership.

What happens when people violate nepotism policies?

Giving special treatment to relatives can trigger myriad penalties, including:

  • Fines
  • Official misconduct charges (a misdemeanor)
  • Removal from office
  • Revocation of payment

Thus, complying with nepotism laws is crucial. That said, it is not always as easy as people think.

Relationships are complicated, and they change over time. Divorces, adoption, estrangements and in-laws can all make it difficult to determine the degree of consanguinity or affinity, and factors like whether the relative receives compensation will affect whether it is indeed nepotism or not.

If you work for a government agency or are an elected official, it is crucial that you proceed carefully and with legal counsel if you wish to hire a relative.