Every company needs to consider a policy on workplace dating. Without a clear policy, an office relationship can lead to charges of sexual harassment and legal consequences for the employer. Although some companies chose to have no policy on dating, that leaves them open to potential liability if a supervisor is shown No-dating policies generally ban dating between a supervisor and their subordinate. Employment attorney Anna Cohen, writing in HR Hero Online, suggests that no-dating policies can be problematic, as it is difficult to define exactly the type of behavior that will be restricted.
Customize this workplace romance policy based on your company’s attitude toward employee dating. Add or delete parts to communicate applicable rules regarding romantic relationships in the workplace and preserve harmony and fairness among all employees. Policy brief & purpose Our workplace dating policy provides guidelines our employees should follow when they’re romantically or sexually involved with a colleague.
We also set some standards for acceptable behavior when flirting with colleagues. We don’t want to place undue restrictions on employees dating each other, as everyone should be free to choose their partners.
But, we want to make sure that relationships won’t cause awkwardness or problems in our workplace. Scope This policy applies to all our employees regardless of gender, sexual orientation or other protected characteristics. In the context of this policy, “employee dating” includes consensual romantic relationships and sexual relations. We explicitly prohibit non-consensual relationships. Policy elements Before you date a colleague Before you decide to date a colleague, please consider any problems or conflicts of interest that may arise.
For example, if you’re working with a colleague on an important project, a relationship between the two of you (or a possible breakup) could affect your work. Make sure you’ve thought about all parameters before making a decision. Acceptable behavior While we don’t object to employee relationships, our workplace is still a professional setting. We expect our employees to treat each other with respect and avoid hindering other people’s work. If you want to express your romantic interest in a colleague, don’t do anything that may embarrass or expose them and always respect their time and choices.
[ You’re allowed to ask a colleague on a date only once. If they say ‘no’ or give an ambiguous answer, don’t ask again.] If a colleague is persistent in flirting with you and becomes annoying or disturbs your work, ask them to stop and inform your manager [ if they continue]. Please report them to HR if they make unwanted sexual advances. Sexual harassment is prohibited, including seemingly harmless actions.
For example, an employee who keeps flirting when their colleague doesn’t respond favorably is breaking our sexual harassment policy.
In this case, they will face disciplinary action. For more details on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to report it, please refer to o. When you begin dating a colleague HR won’t get involved in your private lives and will always be discreet. You don’t need to tell us if you go on a few dates with a colleague or become involved for [ less than two months], as long as there’s no disruption in the workplace or your own work. But if your relationship lasts longer than [ two months], please inform HR.
We want to be aware of these relationships so we can better handle gossip or conflicts of interest. Also, make sure to: • Keep your personal issues and discussions out of the workplace.
• Be productive and focused as always. If you find that your work is affected by dating a colleague, seek counseling from your manager, HR or specialized employee (e.g. company psychologist). Acceptable behavior We expect you to always behave appropriately and follow our . This means you and your partner shouldn’t behave in a way that: • Hinders our operations.
• Embarrasses your colleagues • Distracts your colleagues from their duties Examples of acceptable behavior are: • Passing by your partner’s office to talk to them for a short time. • Discussing your joint vacation plans during breaks • Coming to and leaving from work together Examples of unacceptable behavior are: • Arguing in the workplace.
• Kissing or touching inappropriately in front of colleagues or clients • Exchanging an excessive number of instant messages or calls during working hours • Boasting about or discussing your relationship in your colleagues’ presence Employees who exhibit unacceptable behavior will face .
After you stop dating a colleague If your relationship ends, maintain professionalism and ensure you won’t disrupt our workplace. You mustn’t badmouth your former partner, sabotage their work or reveal any intimate details. All these break our code of conduct about respect in the workplace and you will face disciplinary action.
If your former partner behaves this way, report them to HR and we will investigate as soon as possible. If you’re facing emotional or psychological issues, [ ask HR about our employee assistance program]. [ You could also ask whether your insurance provider covers any therapy sessions with an external mental health professional.] Dating managers To avoid accusations of favoritism and abuse of authority, we strictly prohibit supervisors from dating their team members or those who report to their team members (directly or indirectly).
If they do, they’ll face disciplinary action up to and including termination. • Managers who are from the level of [ senior director] and above are also forbidden from dating anyone who is below the same level, even if they’re in another department.
• Managers who are below the level of [ senior director] may have a relationship with colleagues from other teams or departments, as long as that person is at the same level or within two levels below them.
For example, a [ department head] can date a [ senior manager] from another department but they can’t date an intern who’s more than two levels below them in rank. If you broke our rules by dating someone who’s a direct report or below the acceptable level of seniority, it’s in your best interest to disclose your relationship as you may face more severe disciplinary action when you’re discovered.
Employees will not face demotion, victimization or loss of benefits. Managers may receive a reprimand depending on the circumstances. We may terminate those who repeatedly disregard this restriction.
When one of the former partners becomes a manager If an employee gets promoted or transferred from another department, they may find themselves managing a colleague they used to date. In this case, either of the two should let us know. When managing a former partner, you must be extra careful with how you behave towards them. You’re not allowed to favor or retaliate against them.
You should do everything possible to prove that you’re treating every team member in a fair and professional way. Document every information or incident necessary for performance reviews and ask for your manager or HR’s advice if you need to discipline or reward your former partner. Couples who are married or in a domestic partnership The following guidelines address employees who are already married, have a domestic partner or other long-term relationship.
If you’re the hiring manager for your team, you’re not allowed to consider your spouse or partner for hiring. Doing so might raise questions of favoritism in the hiring process. You are allowed to refer your partner to other teams or departments where you don’t have any managerial authority. If we find out that you hired your partner for your team, you will receive a reprimand and you’ll have two choices: • One of you should transfer to another team or department.
If you choose this option, HR will try to ensure that the transfer won’t negatively affect your salary or benefits. • One of you should quit. This option will be the only solution if a transfer isn’t possible (like in cases where there’s no position relevant to your own in another department).
HR won’t have a say in who will eventually quit, make this decision between yourselves. Our company’s commitment about romantic relationships in the workplace Just like we expect employees to comply with our policy, we have responsibilities that we’re committed to fulfil. We will: • Enforce this policy equally to all employees including HR and senior management • Treat everyone equally when taking disciplinary action without discriminating against protected characteristics • Prohibit victimization, and of any kind • Examine each case separately and consider all aspects and perspectives before making decisions All of us must follow our at all times.
For example, HR must not penalize a homosexual couple differently than a heterosexual couple when they both have violated our employee relationships policy in the same manner. At any point, we will keep our employees’ freedom and individual rights in mind and follow the law. Disclaimer: This policy template is meant to provide general guidelines and should be used as a reference.
It may not take into account all relevant local, state or federal laws and is not a legal document. Neither the author nor Workable will assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this policy.
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But consider this: according to a recent Workplace Options survey, nearly 85% of 18-29 year olds would have a romantic relationship with a co-worker, compared to just over 35% for 30-46 year olds and about 30% of 47-66 year olds.
Even more shocking is that 40% of those 18-29 year olds would date their supervisors. According to a CareerBuilder survey, interoffice dating has a fairly high success rate--of the 38% of people surveyed that dated a co-worker at least once, 31% went on to marry that co-worker!
Enforcing these policies can take their toll on a company. Just last month, Gary Friedman, the chief executive of Restoration Hardware, stepped down in the middle of the company's public offering. The reason: an internal inquiry into his relationship with a 26-year-old female employee. Friedman was not married, so there was no affair. And the employee? She didn't even work there anymore! Earlier this year, Best Buy's chief executive, Brian Dunn, stepped down after an investigation by the board discovered he had shown "extremely poor judgment" with a 29-year-old female employee.
A couple years ago, Hewlett-Packard's chief executive, Mike Hurd, resigned amid accusations of falsifying expense reports to hide a personal relationship with an independent contractor. As companies grow and add employees, you will often see signs of budding workplace relationships. This can be especially true in high-growth companies that demand long work hours and tend to hire more single employees.
When your routine is work-sleep-work, going out to date does not seem like a real option for many. According to the CareerBuilder survey, some industries are more prone to inter-office dating than others.
Hospitality, Financial Services, Transportation and Utilities, Information Technology, and Health Services all topped the list as having higher than average office dating. The legal issue is what I like to call the "amplification" of potential liability that always exists around the employer-employee relationship. There will foreseeably be claims of favoritism, or even discrimination or harassment. When a workplace romance sours, it can expose the company to increased liability, since the connection between alleged actors is easier to establish--essentially giving the plaintiff some good ammunition for his or her case.
Relationships between supervisors and subordinates create even more potential problems. In a better scenario, coworkers would find it easier to claim that an employee received preferential treatment from a supervisor he or she is dating. In a poorer scenario, the relationship would end badly, one of the employees could claim that the relationship was non-consensual, or that sexual harassment existed.
An employee could even make a case for unlawful retaliation if he or she receives a poor performance review from a former lover (or if a co-worker receives a better evaluation from his or her boss).
• You can do nothing. This seems to be the overwhelming favorite for smaller companies or companies that are just starting to formalize employee training. Often a CEO or president will look at the potential for risk and weigh that against the ability to police and enforce a policy.
For many smaller companies, they choose to go without a policy, and let the rules on harassment and discrimination do the job. Note that you should always have a policy prohibiting and enforcing sexual harassment and discrimination. • You can ban it. This is another common method, known as an "anti-fraternization policy." This type of "no-dating" policy is not without problems.
You have to define and often describe the conduct you want to prohibit. Will the policy restrict casual dating, relationships, romantic involvement, or socializing? Can you even define those terms? I can tell you that the last place you want a policy defined is in the courts. A less restrictive policy that a lot of companies have is one preventing nepotism--prohibiting spouses or relatives from working at the same company or preventing employees from supervising related coworkers.
• You can allow it, with written disclosure. This is commonly known as the "Love Contract" approach. A signed document will confirm a consensual relationship and provide additional notice of understanding of the sexual harassment policy. You can often use the contract process to outline expected behavior (like no "PDA"--public displays of affection--at work or retaliation if the relationship ends).
Make sure that you inform the employees that they have a right to (and should) talk to a lawyer before signing. • You can allow it, but never within the chain of authority. While this policy is easier to sell to employees (most are not inside each other's reporting chain), you still have a lot of the same problems about defining conduct and what is not allowed.
You can also have employees report a romantic relationship to a company representative, like an HR official. Having information up front will allow you to better respond to complaints of discrimination or favoritism.
Make sure that your HR representatives understand they can't disclose the existence of the relationship to anyone unless it's necessary to respond to complaints. Generally, policies cover not only employees, but also contractors, vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, and the like. Essentially, any relationship between two people that could have a negative effect on the company if things sour, or if one party is able to improperly influence the other would fall under the policy.
One last generally acceptable rule: If you have a "C" (think CEO, CFO, COO) or VP in your title, you should always think twice about dating anyone in the workplace, even if he or she is not a direct report or within your chain of command.
Even if it does not violate a written policy, your boss (the CEO or the board) might not care, and view it as a lack of senior management acumen. I tend to sound like a broken record when it comes to company policies.
So here it goes again: no matter what policy you have, you must follow and enforce it. It doesn't matter if it is a star performer (such as Restoration Hardware's CEO) or not.
In my opinion, failure to equitably enforce a corporate policy is often worse than not having one.
According to a study by online dating site eHarmony, more people meet their spouses at work or school than anywhere else. In fact, some high profile couples -– Bill and Melinda Gates, for example -– began their romances in the office. Before you head off to work thinking that you’ll come home with an annual bonus and a husband, though, you need to know your company’s policies on co-workers dating. While some companies are lax when it comes to relationships outside of work, others strictly prohibit off-hours fraternization between employees.
Why Policies are Necessary In an era when sexual harassment is a real concern for organizations, the notion of two employees dating each other does have potential for some tricky policy questions. Some argue that if both parties are in a consensual relationship, what they do on their own time has no bearing on the company and should not be prohibited. Others argue that when two co-workers are in a relationship, it has the potential to create uncomfortable situations for everyone -– imagine a staff meeting where two team members have been arguing about their relationship, and those feelings spill over into the meeting -– and thus dating should be prohibited.
No one wants to hear about how a co-worker leaves his socks on the floor, or other more personal details. Common Policy Features While dating is a concern to human resources departments, few companies have actually instituted policies regarding romantic relationships between employees. In fact, law professor Merrick Rossein of the City University of New York estimates that only about a quarter of all companies have such policies.
Most company dating policies focus on the working relationship between the two parties; in other words, they prohibit supervisors or managers from dating their subordinates. Such a policy prevents situations where there’s perceived or actual favoritism, or, should the relationship go bad, retaliation or a sexual harassment claim.
Avoiding Distractions While most companies that prohibit dating among co-workers focus on the supervisor–subordinate relationship, some prohibit dating for other reasons. Turning the office into a virtual singles bar creates distractions, as gossip and speculation can run rampant, and some couples aren’t able to maintain a professional relationship from 9 to 5. More importantly, organizations are concerned about potentially embarrassing situations that come from romantically involved employees.
Steamy e-mails and texts sent on company time over corporate networks, for example, could cause some discomfort for the company PR team if they are made public. Managing Employee Romantic Relationships Sometimes, avoiding a workplace romance may seem all but impossible. That guy in accounting is just too charming to avoid –- and his feelings about you are mutual. Before you plan your night on the town though, check into your company’s policies on dating.
If there isn’t one, then you’re in the clear. If your employer does have a policy, though, adhere to it. You might be thinking, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them,” but if you’re caught violating the policy, you could be facing the unemployment line.
If it’s your boss that’s whispering sweet nothings, you may be able to request a transfer to another department or position to stay in compliance -– just be sure that he’s worth adjusting your career path for before you fill out the paperwork.
And above all, no matter whom you’re dating and your company’s policy, keep your interactions professional and work-related at all times.
Afternoon trysts in the supply closet are only fun on television. About the Author An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.
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