Dating in the workplace policies

A “love contract” is an agreement that affirms that the relationship is consensual and that the employees’ understand the employer’s anti-nepotism, anti-fraternization, harassment, and retaliation policies.Love contracts are less common today because employers rely on policies to address and manage romantic workplace relationships without having to resort to contracts.With Valentine’s Day just behind us, cupid may have left a few arrows in the workplace. workforce study found that 37 percent of workers have dated a coworker at some point in their career.

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If a personal relationship in the workplace would affect supervision, efficiency, security, or morale, an employer would have a strong argument for implementing and enforcing anti-nepotism and anti-fraternization policies.

These policies should require employees to immediately disclose romantic workplace relationships to a supervisor or manager.

Federal and state laws, as well as the California Constitution, generally prohibit employers from making employment decisions based on marital status.

Anti-nepotism and anti-fraternization policies, however, are permissible.

Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), it is unlawful for an employer to subject an employee to different terms and conditions of employment because of the employee’s sex. The first type is “Quid pro quo” harassment, which occurs when submission to sexual conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a condition of a job, a job benefit, or the absence of a job detriment.

The second type is a “hostile work environment,” in which an individual must show: (1) he or she was subjected to conduct of a harassing nature because of his or her sex; (2) the conduct was both subjectively and objectively unwelcome; and (3) the conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the employee’s working environment so as to create an abusive working environment.

While the idea of having an office sweetheart may boost some employees’ morale, romantic relationships in the workplace can create employee dissension and legal liability for employers.

Relationships Between Supervisors and Subordinates While any relationship between employees may cause problems in the workplace, the level of exposure to employers increases when a romantic relationship develops between a supervisor and subordinate.

Sexual favoritism is favoritism shown by supervisors to employees who are the supervisors’ sexual partners.

(Third party employees who are not involved in the relationship may be motivated to bring claims of sexual favoritism if they see a coworker receive job benefits as a result of being intimately involved with a supervisor.

Employers with represented employees should also remember that they should negotiate anti-nepotism or anti-fraternization policies with employee organizations through the meet and confer process.

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