In the Name of Love: Managing Workplace Romance

ThinkstockPhotos-187471299Workplace romance is on the rise – according to a 2014 CareerBuilder Survey, 37% of workers have dated someone they work with while 24% of office romances involved a superior. Similarly, in a 2013 SHRM Survey, 43% of HR professionals report romance in the workplace. As a staffing agency, when love enters the workplace, this could spell TROUBLE for a number of reasons. Here are four tips to assist in staffing agencies in managing workplace romance.

1. Recognize the dangers. Staffing agencies, like all employers, may face liability for a number of reasons when it comes to workplace romance. Romances may lead to decreased employee productivity, inappropriate sharing of confidential information, and/or a negative effect on workplace morale. Lovers may engage in inappropriate behavior at work, making others feel uncomfortable and leading to a hostile work environment claim. Additionally, an employer may face sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits because conduct welcome during a relationship becomes unwelcome when it ends. Risks are enhanced when a supervisor and a subordinate are dating, as a staffing agency may face claims of favoritism, preferential treatment or discrimination by co-workers. Also, an employer may be strictly liable for any supervisory harassment or retaliation after the relationship ends regardless of whether the employer knew about the harassment.

Specifically, there are added risks for staffing agencies providing temporary workers who may be less concerned about workplace romances when only employed at a workplace for a short period of time as opposed to a more permanent position. A staffing agency could also be liable if the employee remains the employee of the staffing agency rather than an employee at the company at which the worker is placed.

2. Implement policies. Because it is increasingly difficult and generally ineffective to ban workplace romances that may inevitably occur, it is best practice to implement policies to manage them. An effective dating and personal relationships policy may prohibit supervisors and subordinates from dating, require employees to notify management of workplace relationships or prohibit relationships with customers or clients. It may require employees to avoid romantic and/or sexual behavior in the workplace as this could be distracting. Further, strict discrimination and harassment policies with multi-channel complaint procedures are essential. A conflicts of interest policy will obligate supervisors and employees to disclose any conflicts of interest that may adversely affect their judgment, objectivity or loyalty to the employer or to their work. The staffing agency should be sure to train all employees and supervisors on all relevant policies.

3. Utilize love contracts. A staffing agency may further protect its interests by having dating employees sign a love contract in which they agree that the relationship is voluntary and consensual, without any type of coercion or duress and that if the relationship ends they will not sue the employer for harassment. It also sets guidelines for appropriate and professional workplace conduct. A love contract can further reinforce the employer’s discrimination, harassment and conflict of interest policies and may require that the employees submit any workplace disputes to arbitration.

4. Monitor relationships. Staffing agencies should be particularly vigilant and monitor workplace relationships it is aware of to ensure that behavior is appropriate and professional at all times. If a staffing agency permits a supervisor and subordinate to date, it may consider changing the reporting structure or having the supervisor agree not to be part of any employment decisions affecting the subordinate. Even if co-workers have a consensual relationship, the employer should monitor it to ensure that behavior is workplace appropriate. At the first sign the relationship is no longer consensual, be on the lookout for harassing or retaliatory conduct. The employer should also monitor workplace touching and proper personal boundaries.

Final Thoughts

While workplace romances may present risks and challenges for employers, with the proper implementation of policies and effective management, staffing agencies can minimize these risks and create a more productive and professional workplace.

For a free report on workplace romance policies, visit XpertHR.

Beth Zoller

Beth Zoller
Beth P. Zoller is the legal editor for the discrimination, affirmative action, harassment, retaliation, employee privacy and employee handbooks/work rules/employee conduct content in the employee management section of XpertHR.

Beth Zoller

Share This Post


Related Articles

Powered by ·