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 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.
Notification Policy Another option is to require employees to report whenever they enter into a consensual relationship. This helps to protect the company from later charges that the relationship was not consensual and constituted sexual harassment.
With this type of policy, the employees would also have to notify you whenever a relationship ends. For this reason, notification policies are sometimes seen as intrusive. With a notification policy, the manager the relationship is being reported to must also be required not to disclose the information, to protect privacy.
Love Contracts This is a written confirmation to management that any relationship taking place between employees is consensual. The contract may also include the employees' written confirmation that they have been informed of the company's dating policy and the behavior that is expected of them, such as refraining from any acts of retaliation if the relationship ends. Employee's Legal Rights The U. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v.
Texas may impact dating policies. The case, which struck down a Texas law banning consensual homosexual relationships, has been interpreted as upholding the right of all consenting adults to engage in private sexual activity. Employers could potentially be barred from banning workplace romances as a violation of the employee's constitutional right to privacy. According to attorney Ray Gallo, writing for the Daily Journal, forcing an employee to chose between their job and their partner would constitute an invasion of privacy, while a requirement to inform the company of a relationship would not.
Policy Guidelines When writing a workplace dating policy, it is important to reduce your potential legal liability. Cohen suggests that banning or limiting dating between supervisors and subordinates is the most important aspect of a dating policy. Maria Stewart, a partner at Austin law firm Brown McCarroll LLP, suggests in the Austin Business Journal that policies on dating should include a way to report relationships that have turned hostile, and that employers must be on guard against any circumstances that could amount to harassment.
She argues that any policy must be applied consistently and should set out clearly how decisions will be made.