Learned from an anonymous message about his consensual extramarital affair with a female executive.
An office romance can mean many things: sizzling passion, a date for Saturday night, a lifetime commitment.
For Harry Stonecipher, it meant his ouster.
Boeing Co. directors asked Mr. Stonecipher, the company's president and chief executive, to vacate his corner office after they learned from an anonymous message about his consensual extramarital affair with a female executive.
For a major U.S. corporation to boot a top executive because of romantic indiscretions, particularly if the affair is consensual, is rare indeed. But another scandal of any sort is the last thing the aerospace company wants -- or that it expected from Mr. Stonecipher.
Fifteen months ago, Chicago-based Boeing brought back Mr. Stonecipher, its retired president, to bolster ethical practices after a string of scandals. Boeing's code of conduct prohibits behavior that may embarrass the company -- which is what directors decided Mr. Stonecipher's affair could do.
Boeing and countless other major corporations generally don't fire staffers involved in a consensual affair where neither partner directly reports to the other. Sexual harassment, which consists of unwelcome advances or conduct that creates a hostile or offensive workplace, remains illegal. But consensual romances are lawful and tolerated far more today than in the past so long as they don't involve a mixing of passion and performance reviews.