For those enthralled in the best seller Fifty Shades of Grey, a workplace romance might seem like a positive next step in life (or in the workplace) but the reality is not that sexy. For employers it may prove to be an untidy and expensive embarrassment.
All too often what starts as a common interest in another person can end up in a messy sexual harassment law suit. Sexual harassment is defined legally as a coercive tradeoff where job benefits are exchanged for sexual favors. It is illegal under the Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964. Clear cut on paper but oh so messy in real life.
Of course legal issues are the worst case scenario but employers should have some policy in writing that dictates the corporate etiquette expected between employees. Here are a few items to address when implementing a new policy:
- Does an employer wish to bar all workplace relationships, or only those that involve supervisors and subordinates?
- Should employees be allowed to continue work if they voluntarily report a workplace relationship.
- Should transfers be a possibility or a requirement if a relationship is established?
So many wonderful relationships and marriages have resulted from workplace encounters, it seems unfair to restrict potential encounters however, employers must consider all of the positive and negative consequences. For example there may be complaints from other workers regarding favoritism. Resentment and dissatisfaction may lead to an increase in turnover and all the associated costs. Office gossip is also a high price to pay as it can quickly infect an office setting. There may also be a conflict of interest when it comes to managing others.
Of course it depends on the roles of the individuals involved but employers might also want to consider policy regarding confidentiality. The leaking of information is a concern with close friendships or romantic relationships and there should be some written policy outlining expected behavior.
Did you know that DirectPay Payroll just added a new Human Resources Online Tool that can address some of these policies? Call Beth Young to find out how you can get information on employee relationships before you have Fifty Shades of Unrest in your office!