Valentine's Day heartaches around the office

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Valentine's Day heartaches around the office

Published about about 2 years ago

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February 14th is quickly approaching and it brings with it a whole slew of troubles for employers. Aside from the usual romance in the workplace issues, employee attendance, harassment, and office parties can all cause an employer a good amount of trouble.  Interoffice romance A recent CareerBuilder survey found that more than 37% of people have dated someone they work with over the course of their career. That’s more than a third of the workforce! While it’s great that your employees are finding happiness, there are a lot of issues that come along with office romances.  Non-fraternization policies One option for employers is to completely prohibit relationships at work in order to reduce the risk of sexual harassment and related claims by instituting a “non-fraternization” policy. However, these policies can have negative effects as well. Most likely employees will continue to have relationships and employers won’t have the opportunity to lessen the possible negative results. Additionally, such a strict policy is bad for employee morale as it makes the employer appear overbearing. Subordinates and managers Office romances are also problematic when an employee in a position of power dates a subordinate. If the relationship sours, allegations of retaliation or harassment could be made. Even if the relationship goes well, other employees may say the supervisor is showing favoritism. Employers should consider a policy against such relationships, or one that requires employees to disclose these relationships and sign agreements that outline solutions if the relationship becomes problematic (i.e. one employee would be transferred). Love contracts A consensual relationship agreement, sometimes called a love contract, is a written document signed by two employees in a consensual relationship acknowledging the relationship is voluntary.  These disclosures usually contain a reminder of the company’s harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policies, as well as a clear acknowledgment that the relationship is consensual. These forms are a good way for employers to remind employees of their policies and protect themselves from future lawsuits.  Harassment  One of the biggest concerns with Valentine’s Day is harassment. Employers should have a clear anti-harassment policy in place that outlines what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable. Such policies should clearly state that employees are safe from retaliation if they come forth with any harassment claims. Harassment can mean so much more than inappropriate advances or attention. Employers should be mindful that Valentine’s Day may bring up more suggestive conversation and unwanted attention.  Workplace conduct Employers should have policies in place outlawing certain behaviors that can make other employees uncomfortable and lead to harassment charges. Employers should have policies that clearly state: no overt displays of affection at work, including kissing or hand-holding work communications systems are to be used for work only – no personal email or voicemail using working time or company equipment employees must behave professionally and in a business-like manner while at work or all company functions romantic squabbles should be left outside of the workplace. Guests and presents No boss wants to tell their employees they can’t have guests or receive gifts at work, but this can sometimes lead to loss of production and possible hostilities. While a policy banning these romantic gestures may cause ill will, managers should be mindful of employees productivity and should try to prevent any sort of hard feelings that come along when one employee receives gifts and others do not.  Office parties While office parties always pose a fair amount of troubles, these hazards are worsened when romance is in the air. Many employers wish to celebrate the holiday as an office, and should consider doing so with a lunchtime treat or daytime party. If an employer wishes to have an after-hours party, they should be mindful of alcohol and the liabilities that come a long with it. Be aware that harassment claims rise when alcohol is involved and make sure that all employees are behaving responsibly.