An official, signed love contract policy should solve all of your potential problems with charges of sexual harassment at the end of a romantic work relationship. Right? I wouldn't count on it, even a love contract reviewed by your employment law attorney.
A love contract policy establishes workplace guidelines for dating or romantically involved coworkers. The purpose of the policy is to limit the liability of an organization in the event that the romantic relationship of the dating couple ends. The main component of the policy is a love contract.The love contract is a required document signed by the two employees in a consensual dating relationship that declares that the relationship is by consent. Additionally, organizations may include guidelines on behavior appropriate at work for the dating couple.
Love contracts generally make arbitration the only grievance process available to the participants in the office romance. They eliminate the possibility of a later sexual harassment lawsuit when the relationship ends. They relieve the company of any liability during the time period of the office romance prior to the signing of the contract.
Solutions Without a Love Contract Policy
At several client companies, managers and employees have attended sexual harassment training. In these companies, the sexual harassment policy states clearly that romantic relationships between coworkers are not the company's business unless fallout from the office romance affects the workplace. (If this happens, Human Resources staff, of course, and their manager in conjunction, would have to address the behavior.)
A manager, however, may not become romantically involved with nor date a reporting staff member. If a manager chooses to date the reporting employee, they have been counseled to notify Human Resources. In these instances, the manager will be the employee who needs to change jobs in the company, assuming a position is available.
This policy, in conjunction with a strong sexual harassment policy and an effective reporting and investigation policy should protect your workplace from litigation. People in a reporting relationship should not be dating.
There is too much room for later litigation and I have already had to work with several sexual harassment cases in companies once the relationship ended. The cases have not been over the dating relationship so much as that the manager's behavior toward the employee changed when the relationship ended.
Litigation Possibilities Even With a Love Contract Policy
And, increasingly coworkers are litigating over the differential treatment the employee in the romantic relationship received from the manager - and they're winning their sexual harassment cases.
I don't believe a love contract will solve the litigation issue. Plus, employees can always charge that they were pressured into signing the love contract at a sensitive time during their employment. Additionally, any love contract policy requires disclosure of a romantic relationship to Human Resources.
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. Even though many attorneys believe a signed love contract lessens the organization's liability, I prefer the above recommended solutions rather than a love contract policy and a love contract.
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Please note that Susan makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice on this Web site, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site is not to be construed as legal advice. The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel.