5 Tips for Managing Workplace Romance Risks

[Video: Do 'Love Contracts' Ease the Risks of Office Relationships?]

We’re very happy for both of you. Now if you’ll please sign this “love contract,” you can get back to work…

Valentine’s Day may be upon us, but office romance poses significant challenges to employers all year long. What to do? Suggestions, from employment lawyers on JD Supra:

1. Don’t pretend it will never happen:

“Employers should not take the ‘ostrich’ approach of burying their heads in the sand when it comes to office romances. Consider having a policy that outlines the basis of what the company expects when it comes to interoffice personal relationships, such as requiring that interoffice relationships be disclosed. It also would be advisable to have a policy that does not allow relationships between subordinates and supervisors.” (Foley & Lardner)

2. Remember the basics:

“No employer today should lack a clear and effective sexual harassment prevention policy and appropriate complaint mechanism. These policies are not only relevant to the litigation of these claims (for liability or mitigation of damages), but these policies communicate to employees that business decisions will be based on legitimate, performance-related criteria—not gender or another protected category.” (Mintz Levin)

3. Make sure your employees remember the basics, too:

“This is a good time for some education on your workplace discrimination and harassment policies… Racy cards, funny shaped confections, suggestive balloons and explicit messages do violate your policies (or at least, they should), and should not appear in the workplace. If they do, employees should be instructed to keep them from public display or comment immediately, and take them home.” (Davis Brown)

4. Don’t ignore harassment claims from once-romantic employees:

“One employer found out the hard way that it should not have discounted an employee’s sexual harassment claim due to her prior intimate relationship with the alleged harasser… The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals allowed [plaintiff Melissa] Gerald’s sexual harassment claim to proceed to trial. The court refused to accept the notion that Gerald’s voluntary engagement in sexual banter with [Dr. Edmundo] Kraiselburd was an invitation to harassment.” (XpertHR)

5. Two words – love contract:

“[A] word about “love contracts.” You know, the document that HR requires the amorous couple sign once the company learns of the relationship? The document that spells out, in no uncertain terms, that the couple understands they are still subject to all company policies, and that whether the relationship lasts or not, the company expects the couple to behave legally and professionally? Or face discipline or termination? Yes, that document.” (Ogletree Deakins)

The updates:

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