With Valentine’s Day upon us, employers should realize that whether they like it or not, romance can and does abound in the workplace. According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 43% of US HR professionals report romances in their workplaces and 79% state that the number of workplace romances has increased or stayed the same.
As a result, when it comes to romance in the workplace, employers should comply with the following Dos and Don’ts:
DO realize that romance in the workplace can go wrong and result in sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits, decreased employee productivity, inappropriate sharing of confidential information, and have a negative effect on workplace morale.
DO develop and enforce an employee dating and personal relationships policy that will set parameters and guidelines with respect to workplace relationships.
DO maintain a professional workplace and prohibit individuals from engaging in inappropriate conduct.
DO monitor employees who are dating and if need be, advise them to cut down on public displays of affection, uncomfortable conversations, lovers’ quarrels or having couple time interfere with work time.
DO provide a multichannel complaint system that allows employees to bring complaints of discrimination or harassment and have those complaints addressed.
DON’T ignore employee complaints of discrimination, harassment or retaliation. Make every effort to show your workforce that you take such complaints seriously and follow up with a thorough investigation.
DON’T allow a management level employee to supervise his or her paramour or permit employees in the same reporting line to date as this may lead to claims of discrimination, favoritism and unfair treatment. If you do permit such relationships, be sure to closely monitor the situation to prevent any discrimination or unfair treatment.
DO evaluate whether a love contract is needed when two employees are involved romantically. A love contract is an agreement that employers may ask employees who are involved in a romantic or sexual relationship to sign stating that the relationship is voluntary and consensual and that the parties are aware of the employer’s sexual harassment policy and no retaliation policy in the event the relationship ends. It also provides rules for appropriate workplace behavior.
DO consider adopting a conflict of interest policy that will put employees and superiors on notice that they will be obligated to disclose any actual or potential conflict of interest that would adversely affect their judgment, objectivity or loyalty to the employer or to their work.
It appears more employers are getting the message and taking these issues more seriously. According to SHRM, 42% now have policies addressing workplace romances—a figure that represents a sharp increase over what it was a decade ago when just 20% of employers had policies in place.
Does your workplace have a policy on workplace romance? How do you handle these issues? Please do get in touch and share your thoughts either by leaving a comment below or via Twitter @BethZoller1.