Dating a Coworker: HR Policy Best Practices for Office Romances

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity. Have a question? Submit it here. Taylor, Jr. So, it should be no surprise that romantic relationships can blossom in the office. One out of every three U. In this MeToo era, employers could enforce strict policies forbidding workplace relationships, but experience tells us office romance would still happen. Workplace diversity: How can I help my company create a more inclusive environment?

Does Your Company Need an Employee Dating Policy?

Should you date a coworker? If you still want to move forward, research shows that your intentions matter. Many companies prohibit employees from dating coworkers, vendors, customers, or suppliers, or require specific disclosures, so be sure to investigate before you start a relationship.

victim of Violence, is encouraged to contact Human Resources of union Workplace‐related incidents of domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence.

According to various surveys, anywhere from about one-third to more than half of employees have dated someone they work with. But for HR professionals, dealing with workplace romances can be tricky. However you decide to proceed, setting down a clear policy both protects your company and better serves employees. While you should always involve expert legal help in shaping your employee dating policy, this article can give you an overview of issues to consider.

If you choose to allow such relationships, you should consider other precautions, such as requiring the manager to disclose the relationship to HR or to her own supervisor, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Having a third party aware of the relationship can help head off any potential problems. To further reduce the risk of future lawsuits, you could also mandate that employees at any level who wish to date must sign a consensual relationship contract.

Besides supervisor-employee relationships, your policy should also cover whether peers at your company can date, and what rules they must follow if they do. Many workplaces have policies about staff members from dating each other. Some even prohibit it. The question is, though, whether you want to go that far.

Want to Date a Colleague? Think Carefully

It is probably equally as unsurprising to learn that, based upon the amount of time people spend at work, the office or workplace is the place where people often meet their significant others. Equally common is the fact that some workplace encounters that begin with romance, often end up becoming unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that often precipitate into claims constituting sex ual harassment.

Until recently, a workplace romance was most commonly defined by courts across the U. It is important that the public employer come to grips with the fact that some of the fallout from workplace romances gone awry include:. Traditionally, employers responded to workplace romance by establishing strict organizational policies designed to regulate or prohibit dating, regularly monitoring their employees as well as imparting swift discipline for employees who violated the policy.

But is your office prepared when dating involves co-workers? consensual relationships in the workplace, often referred to as a “love contract.

For many, the workplace is a prime opportunity to meet someone you may eventually have a romantic interest in. However, employers may have another opinion on the matter. Many employers see the idea of employees dating one another as potentially threatening productivity or even opening up too much liability for the employer. But can they prohibit it?

The employers may fear:. So, can an employer do something about these concerns? Is it legal to fully prohibit employees from dating one another? Legally speaking, in most states an employer can enact a policy that prohibits employees from dating one another. Check your state and local laws for exceptions, which do exist and are usually centered on employee privacy or limitations for employers on prohibiting nonwork activities.

However, even if legal, banning any work romantic involvement can come with its own consequences. Many people meet at work before beginning a romantic relationship.

The Ups and Downs of Romance in the Workplace

The HR director looked up in surprise. And by the way, she did not end it. I did. The man was terminated because his employer had a strict no-dating policy for supervisors and subordinates. His relationship had interfered with his performance. But what happened to Maria?

Let’s face it, workplace dating and relationships happen all the time. If you think about how much time we spend at work with our co-workers.

Yuki Noguchi. This story is adapted from an episode of Life Kit, NPR’s podcast with tools to help you get it together. Listen to the episode at the top of the page, or find it here. Love can be complicated. But mixing love and work is even more so, because it involves your co-workers, your boss and your career. Plus, the MeToo movement exposed the prevalence of abuse of power and sexual misconduct in the workplace. This has made both workers and employers more cautious about romance on the job.

In fact, when it comes to love at work, most dating experts are clear about what they recommend: Don’t do it. But, of course, people ignore relationship advice all the time. Over half of American workers have had a crush on a co-worker, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. And the workplace is still among the top five places where heterosexual people meet their mates, although it has been overshadowed by online dating and meeting at bars and restaurants.

So if you have your eye on a colleague, at least have a plan for how you’re going to navigate that before you even dip your toe in precarious waters.

Workplace dating: Pitfalls and policies

The dating or fraternization policy adopted by an organization reflects the culture of the organization. Employee-oriented, forward-thinking workplaces recognize that one of the places where employees meet their eventual spouse or partner is at work. But, relationships can also go awry and result in friction and conflict at work. This can affect the team, the department, and even the mood of the organization when stress permeates the air.

Where there is no policy condemning workplace dating, I still often counsel employees to disclose to human resources a relationship with a.

Workplace romances happen often, and having a policy in place to help guide the process makes the situation manageable for everyone involved. A study in from CareerBuilder revealed that 41 percent of professionals have dated a coworker and that 30 percent of office romances have led to marriage. Office relationships can seem harmless at first, but when the two lovers start showing favoritism, or if the situation involves a manager dating a subordinate—then it can quickly become a nightmare for HR.

When two employees begin a relationship, it tends to create office gossip, as everyone watches and speculates if the relationship is going to last. Gossiping among coworkers means less productivity and can bring judgment, complaints, hurt feelings, and negatively affect office morale. The most common problem with workplace romances is if the former lovebirds clash after a breakup and harass one another while at work or file workplace a sexual harassment claim just to get revenge.

Antiharassment laws require employers to take all reasonable actions to prevent harassment in the workplace. The potential problems that can arise from a workplace romance may make it seem easier to prohibit relationships rather than to let them ride out, but unfortunately, the majority of employees will follow their feelings before they will follow a policy. Designing a policy to allow office romances but protects the company against sexual harassment liability, and ensures a professional work environment, are areas to consider while writing the policy.

State what is not acceptable—Define exactly what types of relationships will and will not be tolerated and why. Example: Dating someone you report to or who reports to you causes a direct conflict of interest for both of you—and for the company.

When Love is In the Air, Er, Workplace!: The HR Challenge

Employees are still human. They experience emotions, form bonds and develop feelings. Sometimes, this happens in the workplace. As an employer, you want your workers to get along; you want them to work together and enjoy doing so. But what happens when the lines blur and relationships stretch beyond friendly? You don’t want a Grey’s Anatomy situation to arise, so you need to have a policy for when this happens.

13 votes, 24 comments. I’m an HR Coordinator for a tech company in a large city, and I handle the recruiting/hiring for my office, as well as .

Our Sites. Given how much time people spend at work, it comes as no surprise that many people date or have dated someone at their workplace. But with a lot of hooking up, there is also a lot of breaking up. First, California is unique because its constitution includes the right to freedom of association. Second, employers cannot regulate the personal relationships of their nonmanagement employees. Instead, employers should focus on regulating conduct. While there may be no conflict of interest in a relationship between two nonsupervisors, other issues may arise, Shaw adds.

Third, when people start a romantic relationship, they often are not thinking clearly, she says. Brain scans of people who are in new romantic relationships look different than those of people who are not. Their focus is on that person, whether they are waiting for the next message or thinking about the plans they have later; all these things affect the workplace. When employers do find out that there might be a workplace relationship, Frank asks, how can employers manage this?

Second, employers should evaluate if the employees work together. And might there be some changes that should be made?

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