No Love Lost: Reducing the Risk of Workplace Romance

Relationships in the workplace often lead to uncomfortable conversation for managers and HR alike.  But the continuous reports of sexual harassment in the workplace around the country – from Hollywood to the White House – over the past few months have made workplace romance even more of a scrutinized topic.

In a perfect world, all budding company relationships work out, resulting in no drama. Unfortunately, not everyone can turn out like Pam and Jim from “The Office.” People fight, break up, get jealous, turn against each other, and can ultimately put at risk the positive culture you have worked hard to develop. So, in order to prevent a dangerous fallout from a relationship gone awry (mainly, charges of sexual harassment linked to your company) you might consider instituting love contracts in your office.

If you’ve never heard of love contracts, the concept may seem unorthodox. However, love contracts are being implemented in offices all around the United States. At its core, a love contract is an agreement signed by two employees who are dating or romantically involved, establishing that the relationship is consensual. This contract eliminates the possibility that one of the employees could file a lawsuit against your company claiming they were sexually harassed at work as a result of this relationship.

Any employee who chooses to date within the office should not have any qualms about signing this agreement. However, if there is pushback, you can’t just let it slide. You need to make the parties involved understand that their relationship violates company policy.

Love contracts can take care of a multitude of issues surrounding office dating, but there are certainly other situations you may need to address. One such situation is the prospect of an emerging relationship between an employee and their boss.

These types of situations have the potential to become especially problematic. In the event that the relationship goes downhill, the manager still wields power over the other employee, which can lead to malicious treatment. Or, if the relationship goes well, it can lead to the boss using their power to give unfair advantages to the other person, prompting workplace drama and jealousy from the rest of the office.

Other scenarios relating to a boss-employee relationship may end up involving one (or both) of the employees wanting to leave the company. In a worst case scenario, it can become the basis for a discrimination lawsuit filed by the non-manager employee.

With these possibilities in mind, you may want to completely prohibit romantic relationships between an employee and their superior. If you decide to go this route, you would need to have managers sign a document agreeing not to date employees with lower statuses.

As much as you may try to discourage your employees from dating, sometimes office romances inevitably pop up. If this happens, make sure that your company is prepared to nip any loose legal ends in the bud before they sprout into full-fledged disaster.

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