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How to Report Nepotism

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Nepotism is another word for favoritism, usually in reference to a family member or close friend being given favors, promotions, liberties and special permissions above and beyond what others might receive -- whether in business or in government affairs. Ginger Sampson, in a brief on ethics to the National Conference of State Legislatures states, "Today, nearly half of all state legislatures have laws prohibiting a legislator from hiring a relative. And, all 50 states have laws that either prohibit or suggest guidelines for conflict-of-interest situations, which may include nepotism restrictions depending on interpretation of the law." If you work at an office or know of a case of nepotism, you can take certain actions to alert higher-ups.

Write your observations clearly and with as much detail as you can provide. If, for example, you know that a city employee hired his cousin and a brother who are not qualified for a job, list the names, dates of hire and any other information you can provide.

List pertinent laws you are aware of in your city and state, and add additional supplemental information from ethics statements, mission statements, articles of incorporation and so forth. These serve to support your case.

Contact the higher ranking manager or the official who holds a position just above the person in question. For example, Manager Susan Smith hires her best friend and her uncle. Go to the District Manager or the CEO. Always go to the next higher person and if he doesn't respond to your concerns, take it on to even higher ranking officials. If, say, a police chief hires 5 family members for jobs, you might contact the mayor. If the mayor doesn't take action, go to the governor of your state.

Contact an attorney who understands nepotism and laws regarding the workplace. Ask for input on how to properly proceed. This is typically best done by phone, but have your documents handy to refer to.

Broadcast your observations if you find a situation that is detrimental to the general public and you've gotten no results elsewhere. You can contact local newspapers, radio stations and various branches of government to report the situation. Certain risks come with this, however if you have tried every option available, sometimes a reporter will hear your statement and put out a news article. Important scandals in government are often revealed by "whistle blowers" who simply shed light on something the general public was not supposed to know. If you are fearful of repercussions, keep to the facts and follow the local perceived chain of command.


Be absolutely certain you have the facts straight. Sometimes people call their friends "brother" but the relationship is not direct as in a true sibling.

In a small, family-run operation such as a restaurant where all members of one family pull together to share the workload, nepotism is not typically an appropriate term to describe the situation. Investigate further.

The more you know about the legalities, the better chances you have of being heard and finding resolution.


Be careful with your language choices. Rather than saying something like, "I accuse so and so of nepotism", try, "It's come to my attention that Mr. B. has been hiring unqualified family members for city employee jobs."