Workplace Romance Laws
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Workplace Romance Laws
Workplace privacy laws typically allow an employer to monitor and, to a certain extent, control an employee’s workstation, e-mails, and access to the Internet. Many businesses do not extend this control as far as directly prohibiting workplace romances between employees. Instead, they institute discrimination or sexual harassment policies.
What Is a Workplace Romance?
A workplace romance, commonly called an office romance, is a romantic relationship that occurs between two individual employed at the same company.
What Are the Potential Problems with Workplace Romances?
Workplace romances may end well. Unfortunately, some of them do not have a smooth ending. Workplace romances can:
- Complicate the office environment
- Become a distraction
- Create accusations of favoritism
- Create jealousy among employees
- Cause allegations of sexual harassment
Can an Office Romance Be Sexual Harassment?
Yes, but it depends on the circumstances. Harassment involves inappropriate, unwanted, or hostile conduct in the workplace. It is possible for a workplace romance to become harassment when there are:
- Sexual harassment claims
- Conflict of interest claims
- Hostile work environment claims
What Can I Do to Avoid Liability for My Employees' Workplace Romances?
An anti-dating policy should prevent employers from being liable for their employees’ office romances. Employers always have the option to create a policy to:
- Completely ban workplace romantic relationships.
- Partially ban workplace romance relationships. An example of this would be a ban that prohibits dating between subordinates and supervisors/executives.
- Only address harassment and discrimination in the workplace, while ignoring workplace romances.
- Require employees document their workplace romance. This requires informing their supervisors or human resource department about the romantic relationship.
What Should I Include in My Workplace Romance Policy?
A business wanting to create a workplace romance policy should make sure their policy:
- States the type of relationships that are and aren’t tolerated at the company
- Clearly explains penalties of having an office romance like termination, transfer, or demotion
- Addresses sexual harassment
- Encourages open communication regarding potential or actual office romances
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Create a Workplace Romance Policy?
If you want to understand more about avoiding liability for workplace romances and creating an effective policy, contact an employment lawyer. They can assist you in creating a workplace romance policy that fits your company’s needs and assist you in enforcing that policy.
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Last Modified: 10-09-2015 08:53 PM PDT
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