Lasting relationships start when two people meet on the job and begin dating. It is not uncommon for work to bring together likeminded people who end up becoming romantically involved. There is nothing inherently wrong with finding love at work, but dating a coworker can be complicated. No couple wants their employers dictating their dating practices, but for those considering or invested in a romantic relationship at work, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Work Romance Complications
It is perfectly legal to date at work, but there are a few issues that may violate company policies and possibly even the law. Colleagues may engage in a consensual romantic relationship without the need for a human resources intervention. As long as the dating couple keeps their romantic inclinations from making their coworkers uncomfortable, they should be free to carry on without much controversy.
However, if the relationship is between a supervisor and a subordinate, work decisions may been seen as favoritism. If the romance ends badly, issues of retaliation or other negative impacts may hurt the working relationship and cause concern for their employer. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination defines the legal standards against workplace sexual harassment, and govern some of the issues brought up by workplace romances.
Workplace Sexual Harassment
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outlines workplace sexual harassment as conduct of a sexual nature that affects the employment of the targeted individual or their ability to do their job in an environment free from hostility and intimidation, which includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Most companies have policies addressing sexual harassment, and many offer training on the issue. However, when the employees willingly enter a consensual relationship, how can employers protect themselves from any negative impacts if the relationship goes bad?
Some employers have guidelines in their employee handbooks about romantic relationships between coworkers, or those between employees and vendor companies. For some companies, workplace relationships are prohibited altogether. Others have policies against relationships between coworkers within the same department. Still, others only prohibit relationships between supervisors and subordinates. Many company policies lay out the consequences of engaging in these relationships, which may include being transferred or terminated.
Some companies that learn of workplace relationships require that the involved employees sign a statement acknowledging that their relationship is consensual. Usually this contract includes a confirmation that both employees are aware of the employer’s anti-harassment policy and that the relationship conforms to the policy’s provisions.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Employees with Sexual Harassment Claims
If you feel that a past work romance has negatively affected your ability to do your job, or that your employer has displayed unfair influence over your private affairs or advancement opportunities, speak with the Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 215-569-1999 today. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, and Mount Laurel.