Many couples' "how we met" story starts in the workplace because that is the place where people spend most of their hours. It is also a place where one is likely to meet someone with similar interests. But this may pose several issues:
- When a relationship ends, if one member of the former couple continues to pursue the other member at work after a breakup to try to "patch things up," the employer can be found liable for sexual harassment.
- When a supervisor dates a subordinate, it is very difficult to prove that the relationship was consensual because of the differential in power.
- Such relationships can more readily lead to claims of "favoritism" in terms of promotions, job assignments and evaluations
- Ignore it and hope that no one claims harassment. If a claim does arise, address it under the employer's sexual harassment policy (which is often silent on workplace dating).
- Adopt a policy prohibiting dating. Unfortunately, employees still tend to date, but they hide it from the employer
- Adopt a policy that requires disclosure of the relationship so that the employer can document the voluntary nature of the relationship and provide guidance for appropriate conduct in the workplace.
- Guidelines on behavior appropriate at work for the dating couple
- The relationship does not affect their work productivity.
- The breakup must not negatively impact the performance of their duties.
- In the event that the relationship ends, there is no claim against the company and any litigation that ensues is strictly between the individuals
- Firstly at what point in the relationship should such contract be signed? In the typical progression of a relationship -- from establishing exclusivity to meeting family to proposing-- where exactly does "We must sign this legal document so we can protect our company in case I freak out and make your life a living hell" fit in?
- Secondly is there a limit to the number of contracts that one employee can sign? What if an employee makes this a routine affair? There is an article which talks about a girl who is about to sign the love contract when she sees "the giant folder of love contracts all signed by Shane at earlier dates with different women."
- These contracts can get into the nerves of people. As one employee quoted that the contract sent a message that "I wanted to pursue something long term and exclusive". Moreover what if "a week later, you don't want to date anymore?"
- Same sex couples, people who are married to a different party and people who are attempting to keep their relationship secret are unlikely to disclose the relationship to public scrutiny. The contract will not work in such cases.
Now, employers can handle workplace dating issue in the following ways:
The third strategy is what is popularly called a love contract. These contracts serve to separate the relationship from the workplace. It seeks to establish that the two employees are in a dating relationship that is mutually agreeable, consensual, and unrelated to the company. Furthermore it may also contain the following points
Such contract is like an intrusion on the employee's privacy as it not only regulates their workplace conduct but also their personal relationship. These contracts also raise a lot of queries in my mind: