It could ultimately lead to an employer having to lose star employees who are faced with the decision of choosing love over continued employment — in the end, it could end up costing the employer money. Further, a complete ban on workplace dating may deter employees from coming forward to disclose a non-consensual relationship out of fear of losing their job.
A more common approach is for employers to have workplace dating policies that prevent intimate relationships between a superior and subordinate especially in the same department , or ones that could create a conflict of interest. This type of policy may be preferable in terms of costs i. However, any work-place dating policy an employer has should address what constitutes inappropriate behaviour, any rules governing workplace relationships i.
For instance, a policy might allow a workplace relationship so long as it is reported to Human Resources and with written confirmation by the parties that the relationship is in fact consensual. It could be even that the policy covers not only employees, but also contractors, vendors, suppliers, etc.
Likely not, but again, it really depends on any specific policies and procedures the employer may have in place. For instance, if an employee lies or misleads an employer when confronted about a workplace relationship and that employee is in a high position of trust or authority with the company, there may be grounds for termination. Many policies will stipulate that if you are in breach of a workplace policy, there may be grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal with dismissal being reserved for the rarest circumstances.
An Office Romance Gone Wrong. A notable case touching upon the issue of what may constitute just cause for dismissal as a result of an inappropriate workplace relationship is Cavaliere v. In Cavaliere, a senior-management employee was dismissed for cause without any notice or pay in lieu of notice for engaging in sexual relationships with two subordinates over several years.
The dismissed employee argued that the relationships were consensual, and that the employer had no grounds to dismiss him for cause. The court found that there were grounds for cause — relying on a line of cases that stand for the principal that managerial employees have an implied obligation in their employment contracts to ensure that the work place does not come poisoned due to sexual harassment, and to protect the employer from potential legal action for such harassment.
Romance in the Workplace: Part 1 — Protecting Your Organization and Employees From Risk
This was the result even though the court noted that the relationships were, on their face, consensual. Other factors considered by the court when deciding that there were grounds for just cause included the fact that the dismissed employee and the two subordinates he engaged in relations with were married. The sexual activities often took place within the workplace. Notably, after the first workplace relationship was discovered, the employer provided the employee with a written warning to cease the behavior, but almost immediately after he ignored the warning and entered into a new inappropriate workplace relationship.
This second relationship involved a very vulnerable junior subordinate. Thus, employers may be able to establish just cause for dismissal when dealing with relationships that cross power; however, employers cannot jump the gun on terminating an employee for just cause, and this will generally be extremely difficult for an employer to justify. Whether you are an employee or employer, if you are uncertain about the legal implications of a workplace relationship, it is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer to determine the best course of action.
A look at the pros and cons of an office romance
Can an employer put a complete ban on office dating? Can engaging in an intimate relationship with a co-worker be grounds for termination from your employment? An Office Romance Gone Wrong A notable case touching upon the issue of what may constitute just cause for dismissal as a result of an inappropriate workplace relationship is Cavaliere v.
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 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.
What you Need to Know about Dating in the Workplace
As a business owner, you might ask: 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. There are a few different ways to manage this liability.
When it comes to workplace dating policies, here are a few basic options:. 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: 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.
- What do you think?.
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So here it goes again: In my opinion, failure to equitably enforce a corporate policy is often worse than not having one. When it comes to workplace dating policies, here are a few basic options: 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.