Additionally, if a regular relationship ends, it could result in a situation where one former partner has a claim of harassment against the other. According to the CareerBuilder survey, some industries are more prone to inter-office dating than others. An employer who selectively enforces the policy, or enforces it more harshly against one sex compared to the other, may be liable for sexual discrimination. Lawsuits brought by employees against their employers are on the rise, and small businesses are not immune. I tend to sound like a broken record when it comes to company policies. Often, an employee will argue that he or she was an unwilling participant in a relationship that merely appeared to be consensual. If dating is merely discouraged, the policy should also indicate the counseling or documentation that will occur if employees violate the policy. Employers could potentially be barred from banning workplace romances as a violation of the employee's constitutional right to privacy. I can tell you that the last place you want a policy defined is in the courts. So here it goes again: This seems to be the overwhelming favorite for smaller companies or companies that are just starting to formalize employee training. 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. As companies grow and add employees, you will often see signs of budding workplace relationships. United Parcel Services, the 7th Circuit appellate court upheld a no-dating policy that forbade managers from a romantic relationship with any hourly employee, as long as it was consistently enforced. Get Started Want to see how Zenefits can help your business? One last generally acceptable rule: If the relationship goes sour, one partner or both may not be inclined to work cooperatively with the other.
This alone can be enough to avoid some issues, but it stops short of being an actual prohibition. So long as the spouses don't supervise one another, a "no dating" policy enforced against spouses would violate this law. Additionally, use of love contracts is a way to mitigate risk of sexual harassment liability. If dating is allowed, it may foster an environment where more activity occurs that could give rise to a harassment claim. When designing the policy, choose between full freedom, freedom with restrictions, or freedom with disclosure. 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. You can also have employees report a romantic relationship to a company representative, like an HR official. This minimizes many of the risks noted above without prohibiting dating altogether. Love Contracts This is a written confirmation to management that any relationship taking place between employees is consensual. Employee's Legal Rights The U. Often, an employee will argue that he or she was an unwilling participant in a relationship that merely appeared to be consensual. Train employees that the company has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and require employees to sign a document indicating they understand the policy. An EPLI endorsement to a small business commercial policy can help protect businesses in the case of a retaliation lawsuit. However, employers may have another opinion on the matter. There are a few different ways to manage this liability. Broadcast your sexual harassment policy. I tend to sound like a broken record when it comes to company policies. If the relationship goes sour, one partner or both may not be inclined to work cooperatively with the other. Office relationships often inspire gossip, which can impede productivity and damage careers. The employers may fear: When a workplace relationship goes south, the parties involved must still see each other every day in the office. 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. As a business owner, you might ask: Sexual comments and disruptive behavior can render a workplace uncomfortable and unproductive. Employees have asserted claims for sexual harassment based on the theory that they can't receive the same benefits because they are not "sleeping with the boss. Short of banning all workplace dating, here are some other options that many employers choose:
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