Intricacies of the love contract

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
  • Now, employers can handle workplace dating issue in the following ways:

  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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
  • 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:

  • 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.

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