Sjoberg & Tebelius, P.A.
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When Business Gets Personal: Addressing Workplace Relationships

Roses.jpgWorkplace dynamics and culture are naturally affected by sexual harassment, but the same is true when co-workers engage in a consensual romantic relationship. It can affect things like promotions, terminations, and other decisions that affect how employees are grouped and work together. How, and whether, you set rules for dating and intimacy among employees could have a dramatic effect on the workplace itself. It can also affect the legal complications you may face in the future.

Understanding the stakes

Some employers think it's not their place to control their employees' personal lives, and in large part that's true. However, in the era of #MeToo, setting boundaries on appropriate workplace conduct is vital, especially when it involves employees and supervisors. Establishing rules can ensure employees feel safe while also shielding employers from legal action. 

Drawing the lines

There are numerous ways to approach the topic of workplace romances. As this article examines, some businesses explicitly prohibit them; others permit them as long as the parties disclose their relationship; still others only prohibit relationships between certain parties.

Finding the right policy for your business depends on many factors. How many people are in your workforce? How significantly could a failed romance affect other employees?

Enforce the rules

Once you decide your stance on workplace romances, put it in writing, share it with your workforce, and enforce your rules.

If you ultimately look the other way when a relationship violates your policy, employees may not take it seriously. Violations can become more likely and it can be difficult to correct the situation.

Furthermore, enforcing the rule for one couple and not the other could raise claims of discrimination.

Having a workplace romance policy in place may not be necessary for all businesses. However, before you decide against having one, remember that it can serve as an important protective measure against thorny legal issues like sexual harassment, wrongful termination, discrimination and retaliation.

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