Love us and the Error

With love in the air surrounding Valentine’s Day, workplace romance is a hot topic for HR. Now might be a good time for your organization to consider your stance on workplace romance policies.

Intracompany romance is fairly common these days as the office is where we spend so a third or more of our weekdays. Preventing employees from coupling is nearly impossible. Many companies have implemented policies because you cannot stop staff from having romantic relationships but you can attempt to protect the company from a claim. It only takes one sour situation to realize why this is important.

Does your business have a policy on office romances?

Employers have valid concerns about office romances. Problems include favoritism, displays of affection at work, claims of sexual harassment and retaliation. Romance between a superior and subordinate can be especially risky due to one party having direct control over the other, especially if the romance goes sour. It is up to each organization to consider their company’s culture and industry as well as local laws to make good managerial decisions when developing a non-fraternization policy.

How to implement?

  • Develop your policy
  • Make sure everyone in the organization knows the policy and the penalties for violating it
  • Give a copy to all new employees as part of their new employee orientation
  • Enforce it – evenly and fairly

Can an employee be terminated for violating a “non-fraternization policy”?

Generally a non-fraternization policy will have a provision which allows employees to come forward and declare their relationship. But do not be surprised if sometimes the news of a relationship may surface due to gossip and turned over to HR to address.

Options for handling: transferring one employee to a different department, draw up a formal reprimand, remove a worker from a supervisory position, or even termination for a policy violation if the parties do not come forward.

Lindsey DeBellis