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At Work, Valentine's Day Romance Can Be Risky

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

Love is in the air with Valentine's Day around the corner, and there's no way to stop it. Even if your workplace rules forbid interoffice romance, you can bet that it still happens.

While you may have nothing against Cupid or the holiday of love, that doesn't mean it's always good for business. At best, an interoffice romance can make things a little awkward for a few weeks while the couple navigates their new relationship.

At worst, it can lead to a lawsuit against your company. Now's the time to check and make sure your policy will protect against the fallout of workplace romance, on Valentine's Day or any other day.

Here are some general tips:

  • Avoid a blanket ban. It may be tempting to put a stop to any interoffice romances by telling employees they are never allowed in your workplace. But the likely outcome is that the romances get pushed behind closed doors so you can't keep an eye on potential issues. Better to discourage romances but not ban them altogether.
  • Be specific. It's not the relationship itself that can lead to workplace problems; it's the behavior that goes along with it. Make sure your policy clearly lays out what behavior is and isn't acceptable at work. Hint: Public displays of affection should probably be out.
  • Get it out in the open. Having employees disclose relationships to Human Resources can make things a lot easier for a company. For starters, it gives some proof that the relationship was consensual, which can help in the case of a potential harassment lawsuit. It can also make you more aware of potential issues regarding favoritism or special treatment.
  • Take complaints seriously. Interoffice relationships don't just affect the people in them. They also affect any employee who works with those people. Your policy should include a complaint process for employees who are uncomfortable with romances in an office. If someone does complain, really listen to the problem.
  • Crack down on sexual harassment. An interoffice dating policy is often included with a sexual harassment policy. This isn't a mistake; what one person may see as casual flirting, the recipient may feel is uncomfortable or harassing. Candy and flowers may seem like a nice idea, but ensuring employees know that flirting during office hours is probably not a good idea.
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