For many, the workplace is a prime opportunity to meet someone you may eventually have a romantic interest in. However, employers may have another opinion on the matter. Many employers see the idea of employees dating one another as potentially threatening productivity or even opening up too much liability for the employer. But can they prohibit it? The employers may fear:. So, can an employer do something about these concerns? Is it legal to fully prohibit employees from dating one another? Legally speaking, in most states an employer can enact a policy that prohibits employees from dating one another. Check your state and local laws for exceptions, which do exist and are usually centered on employee privacy or limitations for employers on prohibiting nonwork activities. However, even if legal, banning any work romantic involvement can come with its own consequences.
How to handle workplace romances
If you own a company, chances are you’ve had to decide and at times reassess whether to allow consensual dating and romantic relationships among your employees — or, in legalese, whether and to what extent to adopt an office “non-fraternization” policy. Although there are no laws which outright prohibit interoffice relationships, as shown in the news of late, they carry obvious risks , such as:.
Lastly, when romantic relationships fail and let’s not kid ourselves — they usually do , there is the possibility one or both participants may view the once blissful and consensual detente through a lens of revisionist history — fertile ground for headline-grabbing and costly sex harassment litigation. On the other hand, many view workplace relationships as an inevitable byproduct of today’s interconnected world. This trend may continue to gain steam. For example, polling suggests millennials are much more open to office romance than their older counterparts.
More than half of U.S. workers report having had an office romance with a work colleague. An employee fraternization policy can protect your.
Having a healthy employee dating policy in place to provide a framework for acceptable behavior and to protect the company and its workforce against problems is vital, and this policy should form part of your company culture and be understood by everyone on your team. While most companies might prefer that their employees don’t date each other in order to avoid problems in the workplace and the potential risk of things turning nasty if the relationship breaks down, blanket bans on dating colleagues rarely serve any meaningful purpose other than to encourage couples to keep things under the radar if they do find love in the office.
However, having an employee fraternization policy in place within your company or organization can help to provide clarity, guidance, and boundaries for interoffice dating among colleagues, plus it can ensure that relationships don’t have a negative impact on the participants themselves, their other colleagues, or the company as a whole. Employee fraternization is defined as a relationship that falls outside of normal work-related interactions and communications, which is usually but not necessarily romantic or sexual in nature.
Employee fraternization won’t automatically have a deleterious effect on the company or other colleagues that work with the couple in question, but it can be problematic, particularly if there is an innate imbalance of power between the participants, such as if a supervisor dates a subordinate. Additionally, inappropriate workplace behavior, lost productivity, the knock-on effect on other team members and acrimonious breakups are always a concern for employers when colleagues date or fall in love, but having an employee fraternization policy in place for your business or organization can help to avoid all of these things.
Workplace fraternization is very common all across the United States, and, of course, a large number of people reading this article may have met their significant other in the workplace — or have had a relationship with a colleague in the past.
HR Policy Samples
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, a small business owner overhears two employees discussing their upcoming date. The business owner knows that office relationships can negatively impact the workplace. Favoritism, conflicts of interest, and even sexual harassment complaints can disrupt productivity and influence morale, especially if the relationship sours. She considers adopting a policy on workplace relationships. The following are factors this business owner and other employers should consider before instituting a policy on workplace relationships:.
Look at your company culture and applicable laws to decide what type of policy makes sense for your business.
Cultural attitudes toward workplace romances are shifting. verbal (lewd jokes and unwanted advances, for example) and physical (groping). Companies are steering away from addressing office romance in their employee policies.
Looking for an easy way to keep up on the latest business and HR best practices? Join our growing community of business leaders and get new posts sent directly to your inbox. Workplace romances tend to be the stuff of legend — either because a department or entire company got dragged into the drama, or the couple lives happily ever after. Rarely is there a middle ground. For that reason, many companies discourage interoffice dating.
But love, or like, sometimes happens anyway. Lest you feel hard-hearted for discouraging workplace lovebirds, consider the turmoil and drop in productivity that can be caused by gossip, poor morale, and accusations of favoritism or sexual harassment charges. Should your company do the same? Can a policy protect your company from charges of sexual harassment or favoritism, conflict or morale problems? While it can make some managers uncomfortable to tell employees what to do on their off time, the purpose of a formal policy is to keep employees effective and productive.
However, you do have to act immediately if productivity is affected, if you get complaints from employees , or gossip and conflict are tearing a department apart.
Can an Employer Prohibit Employees from Dating One Another?
Never Date Anyone At Work. If the relationship goes sour, one partner or both may not be inclined to work cooperatively with the other. If escalated, it could even become a situation in which one former partner has the ability to demote, terminate, or give negative reviews to the other-all of which could lead to problems including lawsuits.
The policy allows co-workers to enter romantic relationships, but it sets out some guidelines. For example, dating colleagues must conduct themselves in a way.
In any relationship you have, there is a chemistry and a power dynamic at play. But when you mix professional and personal, the stakes can get even higher. When you are spending most of your time at work, it makes sense that office romances could occur. According to recent data from job search platform Comparably , 34 percent of men and 35 percent women report that they have dated a co-worker. And according to a recent poll of more than 1, Entrepreneur readers on Twitter, 39 percent said they had dated a co-worker.
But in the wake of the MeToo movement and sexual harassment allegations that have come to light across multiple industries over the past several months, it’s on every company to assess whether their HR policies in this arena make it possible for everyone to feel safe at work.
Dating in the workplace – Your rights
The dating or fraternization policy adopted by an organization reflects the culture of the organization. Employee-oriented, forward-thinking workplaces recognize that one of the places where employees meet their eventual spouse or partner is at work. But, relationships can also go awry and result in friction and conflict at work.
This can affect the team, the department, and even the mood of the organization when stress permeates the air.
The Problems with Employee Dating and enforce a “no dating” policy by hiring a private investigator to follow the employee around, For example, employees often go to lunch together, may go out for a happy hour drink.
Every company needs to consider a policy on workplace dating. Without a clear policy, an office relationship can lead to charges of sexual harassment and legal consequences for the employer. Although some companies chose to have no policy on dating, that leaves them open to potential liability if a supervisor is shown to have sexually harassed a subordinate, for example, by giving a poor performance review to a former partner.
To avoid this, companies institute various types of dating policy. No-dating policies generally ban dating between a supervisor and their subordinate. Employment attorney Anna Cohen, writing in HR Hero Online, suggests that no-dating policies can be problematic, as it is difficult to define exactly the type of behavior that will be restricted. For example, in the case of Ellis v. United Parcel Services, the 7th Circuit appellate court upheld a no-dating policy that forbade managers from a romantic relationship with any hourly employee, as long as it was consistently enforced.
However, in its opinion, the court also stated that the policy may have gone too far. Another option is to require employees to report whenever they enter into a consensual relationship.
How Google, Facebook and Amazon Handle Office Romances — and How You Should Too
Workplace relationships are common because of the commonalities co-workers share with respect to the amount of time spent at work and the close proximity of working together in a team. The fraternization policy adopted by a conglomerate reflects the culture that it follows. It shows employee-oriented and forward-thinking workplace preparedness of the management. No organization wants to place undue restrictions on its employees concerning their personal relationships.
Failure to notify your supervisor and HR of a workplace relationship can be a violation person and a newly hired younger employee, for example). That’s why about one-half of companies have policies about office dating.
Workplace romances happen often, and having a policy in place to help guide the process makes the situation manageable for everyone involved. A study in from CareerBuilder revealed that 41 percent of professionals have dated a coworker and that 30 percent of office romances have led to marriage. Office relationships can seem harmless at first, but when the two lovers start showing favoritism, or if the situation involves a manager dating a subordinate—then it can quickly become a nightmare for HR.
When two employees begin a relationship, it tends to create office gossip, as everyone watches and speculates if the relationship is going to last. Gossiping among coworkers means less productivity and can bring judgment, complaints, hurt feelings, and negatively affect office morale. The most common problem with workplace romances is if the former lovebirds clash after a breakup and harass one another while at work or file workplace a sexual harassment claim just to get revenge.
Antiharassment laws require employers to take all reasonable actions to prevent harassment in the workplace.
When Love Blooms in the Breakroom: Policies for Workplace Romances
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way e. Although this policy does not prevent the development of friendships or romantic relationships between co-workers, it does establish boundaries as to how relationships are conducted during working hours and within the working environment.
Individuals in supervisory or managerial roles and those with authority over others’ terms and conditions of employment are subject to more stringent requirements under this policy due to their status as role models, their access to sensitive information, and their ability to affect the employment of individuals in subordinate positions.
Some employers have drawn a hard line on workplace dating Late last year, for example, McDonald’s ousted its CEO for violating the company policy. “There’s nothing wrong with having zero-tolerance policies in place.
According to various surveys, anywhere from about one-third to more than half of employees have dated someone they work with. But for HR professionals, dealing with workplace romances can be tricky. However you decide to proceed, setting down a clear policy both protects your company and better serves employees. While you should always involve expert legal help in shaping your employee dating policy, this article can give you an overview of issues to consider.
If you choose to allow such relationships, you should consider other precautions, such as requiring the manager to disclose the relationship to HR or to her own supervisor, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Having a third party aware of the relationship can help head off any potential problems. To further reduce the risk of future lawsuits, you could also mandate that employees at any level who wish to date must sign a consensual relationship contract.