It’s Valentine’s Day, let’s recognize that love is not just in the air this time of year – it may also be in your office. Workplace romances are more common than you might think. Last year’s Vault Survey of Office Romances found that 51% of respondents had been involved in an office romance. The scary part is that 32% of those folks had a relationship with a superior or subordinate.
Before you change the annual Sexual Harassment Prevention training to the week of Valentine’s Day each year, let’s consider a more realistic option: A policy on workplace romance. This type of policy is an addition to your policy on harassment, not a replacement.
According to SHRM, when developing a policy on office romance, employers should consider both the legal implications associated with sexual harassment and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Acts of 1964 and similar state and local laws, as well as the day to day events associated with consensual relationships in the workplace. A good policy starts with prohibiting romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors and direct subordinates. Preventing all office relationships seems improbable, but you can clearly identify workplace expectations.
Already have an office romance policy? If it hasn’t been revised in a while, now might be a good time to align it with your technology policy. If there is an office romance, it is likely to play out through an internal messaging system, e-mail, texting or social media. While your technology policy may already address the use of these in the workplace, your office romance policy can serve as a reminder of the policy and should serve to further minimize any expectations of employee privacy.
If you have an older “love contract” and not a formal policy, it’s time to rethink your approach. Love contracts were designed to allow employees to disclose their relationship and provide protection to the employer in the event that the relationship ended. While they may still have a place in your organization, a love contract alone will not shield you from liability.
As you rethink your current policy, or think about developing a new one, always remember to keep the culture of your organization in mind. While you have to abide by related laws, you should carefully consider what will fit your organization best.
A policy, a love contract and employee training might not sound romantic, but it’s a great Valentine’s Day gift for your business!