Office Romance--Employers Shouldn't Ignore Risk of Cupid in the Office

Date: February 01, 2016 Last Edit: February 02, 2016

Workplace romances are nothing new, but as people spend more time at work, it’s increasingly common for romance to spark in the office. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, the NFIB Small Business Legal Center warns that while office romances can have a positive impact on work performance, they can also be distracting and destructive to both the couple involved and others in the workplace.

“Employers must stop inappropriate conduct and communicate acceptable workplace behavior, especially around Valentine’s Day when employees may think it’s okay to make the move on a co-worker,” said Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel with the NFIB Small Business Legal Center.

The following five tips can help minimize distraction and maximize appropriate office comradery:

1. Understand your obligation to prevent harassment, including sexual harassment, in the workplace. Establish a policy and enforce it. NFIB provides a free model policy here.

2. Be on high alert for supervisor-subordinate relationships. These can be among the most dangerous, legally, for employers. The relationship can lead to resentment among co-workers who feel that the employee dating the manager is being favored. And after the break-up, watch out! Be prepared to defend against discrimination claims from the jilted subordinate employee.

3. Have an open-door policy. While it’s unrealistic to prohibit workplace dating, establish an open policy that makes it easy for employees to talk about these issues with you. So if things go south, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

4. PDA is a no-no in the office. Don’t be afraid to speak up and stop it. Call the couple into your office and say “Kristine and Tom, you need to be really careful on the PDA (personal display of affection) front. We can’t kiss and hug in the office.”

5. Finally – be consistent. The same rules need to apply to everyone.

Business owners with additional questions on workplace polices can contact the NFIB Small Business Legal Center at (800) NFIB-NOW.

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