For various reasons, dating someone you work with can be a bad idea. Many companies have rules called “no fraternization” policies which outline the dos and don’ts of office romance. While most policies allow for dating in general, there are some situations where that’s typically frowned upon; for example, managers and supervisors probably shouldn’t be canoodling those who report to them. When that happens, for better or for worse, someone often gets fired. It make sense, even if it can be a bit cruel (and it can definitely seem unfair) to the young couple in love which, suddenly, finds itself one or two incomes short of what it otherwise expected to be earning.
When a then-20-something woman named Amanda Blake announced her engagement in early 1985, though, she probably didn’t consider such policies. While her husband-to-be, David Cronin, used to work at the same company she then worked at, he no longer did. So she was probably surprised when her employer gave her an ultimatum: call off the engagement, get your fiance to quit his job, or find yourself fired.
Why? Blake worked for Coke. Cronin worked for Pepsi.
At the time, according to Computerworld, Blake was a data processing manager, leading a seven-person team who worked on IBM System/38s, mainframe computer which looks a lot like a washer/dryer to modern eyes. She had worked her way up in that department progressively over a seven-year career with a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Massachusetts, but her employer was concerned that her position gave her access to confidential information. That, the Coke bottler believed, was incompatible with having a husband who worked at a Pepsi bottler. While the company apparently offered her a “less sensitive job” per Computerworld, that didn’t work for Blake, who likely saw it as a demotion, so Coke forced her into a hard decision.
But the couple neither broke off their engagement nor did Cronin quit. Instead, Blake was fired — and then, she sued, claiming that her employer had wrongfully terminated her and, for that matter, invaded her privacy in the process. She sought $600,000 for the trouble — that’s about $1.2 million in today’s dollars — and settled out of court.
Ms. Blake found a job at a local university and the couple ultimately got married, likely with a nice nest egg courtesy of Coca-Cola.
Take the Quiz!: Coke Versus Pepsi: Name Their Products. How well do you know their sub-brands? (This is probably harder than you’d think it’d be.)
From the Archives: Bottled Up: The Venezuelan Cola Wars.
Related: “The Other Guy Blinked: How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars” by Roger Enrico. Originally published in 1986, it probably jumped the gun on that one.