The Beatles have many great songs about the ups and downs of love. What about love when it comes to work? From “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “All You Need Is Love”, the topic in the workplace is a delicate subject. Workplace romances can have many effects on the office environment. While some of those effects may be pleasant, others may cause tension and potentially lead to lawsuits. What are you doing to avoid personal and legal drama? Do you have a fraternization (or non-fraternization) policy in place? Here are some tips to get you started.
Be clear about relationships between supervisors and those reporting to them.
One of the biggest concerns about relationships in the work environment is the possibility of these types of relationships leading to sexual harassment claims. Not only could it be construed in this manner, but also the peers at the reporting employee’s rank may see favoritism. It is recommended that these types of relationships be banned in your policy.
Determine your stance on public displays of affection.
While this is another area in regards to romantic relationships in the workplace, it can still lead to claims of sexual harassment. PDA can also make your work environment very uncomfortable, especially for those working around the couple most frequently. PDA may welcome sexual jokes and comments or even agitate employees to the point of causing altercations. It may be a good idea to separate the couple instead of employing them in the same area.
What if there are employees already in consensual relationships? What if they are married?
It is somewhat common for employees to become part of a relationship at some point. Consider coming up with an agreement between the couple and management team that prevents the couple from allowing their relationship to disrupt the workplace. Be sure to define what this means and discuss the agreement with the couple. Perhaps you should have them be a part of the process in drafting the agreement. As for married couples, be sure not to discriminate against them by terminating them solely because they are married to a co-worker. It is understandable that married couples working together may make planning work schedules and vacations difficult; however, a blanket ban on married employees could lead to a lawsuit. In some states it is considered illegal to discriminate against someone based on their marital status.
Be prepared to handle romance in the workplace when it happens. A complete ban on relationships isn’t really a good idea because of legal issues. Make sure you have a policy set into place on your expectations without violating the law. No one likes taking a long and winding road to a broken heart or a broken law. Need help writing your fraternization policy? Contact Extra Help, Inc. today to find out more about our HR Support Center and other ways we can serve you.