Written By: Kristian Cross, Esq.
Collins and Lacy, PC
Columbia, South Carolina
Valentine’s Day may have come and gone this year, but office romances brew all year long. One of the worst things an employer can do is pretend an office romance will never happen, or that if it does, it won’t affect his or her business.
Recall the worst break up you ever had. Now imagine if you had to see that person post-breakup all day…every day…for five days out of the week. That kind of animosity is enough to slow production in anyone’s business.
So what can you do? Be proactive. After you come out from the sand of denying it can happen in your business, review your anti-harassment policy. If it does not include a fraternization policy, develop one. A good fraternization policy will outline which office romances are acceptable at the workplace and which are not. Generally speaking, relationships between supervisors and subordinates should be avoided. A fraternization policy will also outline acceptable conduct between workplace couples.
Once the couple announces their relationship, consider having them sign a “love contract.” What is a “love contract”? It is a document in which the couple acknowledges their relationship is consensual, each employee is still subject to all company policies (including anti-harassment and fraternization policies), and whether or not the relationship lasts, the couple agrees to behave professionally and legally.
Despite the catchy phrase, “love contracts” are not legally binding. So what’s the point? It reminds the love-struck couple that (1) the company knows of the relationship, (2) the company has policies for how the employees should act at work during their relationship, and (3) inappropriate actions due to a broken heart, which violate company policy, will not be tolerated and may result in termination or discipline.