CUPID’S ARROWS ARE FLYING « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


How to Regulate Workplace Romances

With sexual harassment allegations surfacing daily in the media, it’s not surprising that coworkers may be more hesitant to date each other. In the 2018 CareerBuilder’s Annual Valentine’s Day survey, only 36% percent of workers reported having dated a coworker, a 10-year low.

Regardless, office romances remain a fact of life. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, employers should review their workplace romance policy to avoid potential relationship conflicts which may lead to allegations of sexual harassment, sexual favoritism, or discrimination.

As this is obviously a sensitive area, best business practice is to secure the guidance of experienced legal counsel. California employers may implement a policy that explicitly bans all workplace dating, or at least prohibits a supervisor from dating a subordinate. Alternately, to lessen the potential for claims of quid pro quo or hostile work environment harassment in the event an office romance was to sour, the employer may require a worker to transfer to another company division.

If the company permits dating in the workplace, it may require a couple to confirm the consensual nature of the relationship in writing, aka a “love contract.”

Properly drafted love contracts define the parameters of a romantic relationship while deterring privacy invasion claims against the employer. These agreements typically acknowledge the consensual, voluntary nature of the relationship; prohibit supervising one another or engaging in favoritism to the detriment of other workers; affirm compliance with the employer’s anti-harassment and discrimination policy; and require the couple to notify the employer if and when their personal relationship ends in order to prevent any post-relationship harassment or retaliation.

Live sexual harassment prevention training for the dating couple and all other employees further establishes appropriate standards to comply with and demonstrates the employer’s commitment to a harassment-free workplace.

For further information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

See also:

Speaking Out Against Sexual Harassment (December, 2017)

Unlawful Retaliation Defined (September, 2016)

Is Your Harassment Policy California Compliant? (April, 2016)

Employer Zones Out (October, 2015)

Smokin’ Spuds Goes Down in Flames (October, 2015)

Discrimination and Retaliation Claims (May, 2014)

Cindy Bamforth

February 13, 2018