Office flirtations are one thing but romantic relationships between employees – an employer’s worst nightmare! But, when you have men and women working together for over forty plus hours a week it’s probably unavoidable. A 2006 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that “as many as 40% of workers have had an office romance. Most employers cannot help but think about the potential for conflicts of interest. Employers wish they wouldn’t happen at all and they used to just ban them, period. Whether that was really effective or not is debatable, but employers now realize that a “no romance” policy just isn’t realistic. So, what to do? Make a policy, so you at least have a little control.
Five areas that an effective office romance policy should cover:
Disclosure – Because what you don’t know may hurt you
Require that employees involved in a blossoming romance disclose it to their superior. This way the employer can limit problems and possibly reassign those involved.
Get it in writing – a “Love Contract”
Require that the involved parties sign a “love contract.” This written contract should spell out the relationship and what are the expectations for behavior in the office including an explanation that any show of favoritism or disruption of the workplace may be cause for reprimand or dismissal. The contract should explicitly state that all parties agree that the relationship is consensual and should reference the company’s sexual harassment policy. The contract should provide for conduct upon termination of the relationship including informing the superior of the status of the relationship.
No PDA’s at work – keep a distance in the office.
All public displays of affection at work should be prohibited – and this does mean “all.” Of course this includes kissing and touching, but online communication should be limited too. Texting, emails, or other use of company property to communicate romantically should not be allowed. These boundaries must be clearly outlined and consistently enforced. PDA’s in the office makes others uncomfortable which could lead to moral problems and potential legal issues.
Check-in with co-workers
Make sure that supervisors are monitoring the relationship and its effect on co-workers and the workplace. Other employees need to feel they have an outlet for their opinions on the relationship. If they think there is favoritism or are affected negatively in other ways by their co-workers’ budding romance that could cause other problems for the company including having a negative impact on productivity and even a turnover issue.
Always ask your attorney
It’s a good idea to seek legal counsel when employee issues are involved. The employer should make sure they are abiding by all local and federal regulations. Also, the lawyers can review the company policy concerning employee relationship to and the “love contract” to protect everyone involved from sexual harassment issues.
If you want to attempt to stop office romances from ever occurring in the first place, employers should educate employees about the companies’ office romance rules during the hiring process. The foundation of an employer’s attempt to prevent sexual harassment, favoritism, and hostile work environments caused by office romances is the creation and implementation of a policy statement.
Kiernan Hopkins graduated from University of San Diego in 2010 with a degree in Business Administration. Kiernan is now currently working as a public relations associate and outreach coordinator at the Brooklyn Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel, LLC. Kiernan also consistently contributes to a number of different legal and business news blogs across the web.
Image courtesy Lauren Hollaway