What’s love got to do with it?

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How to handle relationships in the workplace

Office romances aren’t just in the movies.

Career Builder’s 2017 Valentine’s Day survey reported 41 percent of workers have dated a co-worker at least once.

When people work together, it can become inevitable that some might develop feelings for each other and begin to date. The question managers and business owners sometimes ask is: Should the company have a “no relationship” policy?

The best strategy is to have a policy in place to protect the company against liability in harassment and retaliation claims, according to Employers Resource, an online professional employer organization.

A complete ban on romantic relationships can be difficult to enforce. Employees will likely keep the relationship secret, and there can be challenges in court depending upon the wording of the ban.

Any dating or relationship policy must be enforced fairly and consistently so that it does not discriminate, according to HR Daily Adviser, a human resources website of tips, news and advice.

Here are some tips human resources experts suggest:

• Conduct regular sexual harassment training. During the training, let employees know that office relationships must be kept separate from the work environment.

• Point out the negative implications of workplace relationships: charges of sexual harassment, retaliation and hostile work environment; polarizing politics in the workplace as people choose sides; accusations of favoritism from other employees.

• Set a no tolerance policy for public displays of affection or sexual behavior at work.

• Make sure everyone knows their productivity expectations and that cooperation must continue regardless of relationship outcome.

• Notify employees that any supervisor, manager, executive or company officials in an influential position must disclose their romantic or sexual relationship with a co-worker to human resources to determine whether a conflict of interest exists and any reassignment needs to occur.

• Closely monitor relationships to ensure they are consensual and that a person isn’t forced into dating a supervisor in order to keep their job or for another employment favor.

One of the new things to occur in the workplace is the creation of the “consensual relationship agreement” that both parties sign. It states the relationship is consensual, and that they are aware of the company’s policies on sexual harassment and workplace ethics. The agreement also states the couple won’t engage in favoritism, will maintain professionalism in the workplace, won’t take legal action against the employer or each other if the
relationship ends. ♦

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