Workplace Relationships

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Most Common Employment Law Issues:

Can a Workplace Relationship Be Considered Harassment?

Harassment is a type of employment discrimination involving unwanted, inappropriate, or hostile behavior in the workplace. While workplace relationships are not considered harassment per se, it is possible for workplace relationships, especially ones of a romantic nature, to lead to situations that give rise to harassment claims. There are a few common ways that a workplace relationship can create liability:

How Can Employers Avoid Liability for Workplace Relationships?

Explicit, company-wide dating policies should prevent most of these problems, as long as they are clear and uniformly enforced. The policies most often used are:

What Kind of Dating Policy Can I Use?

Employers should create an explicit dating policy to avoid legal headaches down the road. The policies most often used are:

The "right" dating policy depends on what is best for your business and employees. If you're having trouble deciding, then it's best to consult an employment lawyer to figure out which policy would be best for your business model.

What are the Potential Problems with Workplace Romances?

Workplace romances may end well. Unfortunately, some of them do not end well. Workplace romances can:

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:

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:

Why are Workplace Harassment Laws So Serious?

Anti-harassment laws tend to be somewhat strict when it comes to workplace standards. This is because in the past, harassment claims tended to go unreported due to a fear of retaliation by a boss or another worker. For instance, the worker might feel pressure not to report an instance of harassment if their boss or supervisor threatens to fire them for reporting a violation. However, harassment can cause serious damage to a person and should not be ignored or overlooked.

Currently, firing an employee for filing a harassment claim is illegal under employment laws. This is called "retaliatory discharge" or "retaliatory firing" and is considered to be illegal. This means that an employee today cannot be fired for filing a harassment claim with the government, even if the claim turns out to be false. However, laws also protect employers from being victims of false sexual harassment claims.

Should I Terminate an Employee after an Incident of Sexual Harassment?

Make a full investigation if:

Until you’ve made a full investigation, avoid making any official actions.

The only exception is if one person hits, rapes, or attempts to hit or rape another person. In that case, call the police. If you punish an employee too soon and without an accurate picture of the situation, you could face retaliation lawsuit. Employers should be forewarned that retaliation suits are much easier to prove than regular discrimination lawsuits. Separate the employees in question, but make sure the separation is not inconvenient to their current job performance. Make sure you determine exactly who the harasser is before punishing anyone.

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: 10-06-2017 12:03 PM PDT

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