Over one-third of employees report having been romantically linked to a co-worker, so while an outright ban on office romances might seem like an easy fix, it is naïve. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is in the air, so there is no better time to discuss the do’s and don’ts of navigating workplace romances.
Rather than ignore the issue of office romance, employers should grapple with this fact of work life directly, and outline how, when, and where office romances are appropriate. For example:
- Request that employees sign a “consensual relationship agreement.” By signing one of these “love contracts,” as they are sometimes called, your employees affirm that their romantic relationships are mutual and voluntary. In the #MeToo era, it is important for employers to be mindful of potential harassment claims, and a love contract is another means by which employers and employees can protect themselves.
- Prohibit physical contact of a romantic/sexual nature on company property.
- Prohibit supervisors or managers from dating their subordinates.
- Encourage open communication–signal a willingness to work with employees and they will be more likely to disclose their relationships.
Finally, employees themselves can take steps to avoid fallout if their office romances take a turn for the worse. You should not be afraid to disclose your relationship to HR, because by acknowledging your consensual relationship with a co-worker, you protect both yourself and your organization.
This Valentine’s Day, do not turn a blind eye to office romances. Implement smart, proactive policies to create a work environment that allows employees to thrive in both their work lives and their love lives.
If you have any questions related to office romances, sexual harassment, or any other aspect of employment law, you can contact Thatcher Law Firm at 301-441-1400.