Workplace Relationships – Should You Have a Formal Policy in Place?


Jim Halpert and Pam Beasley.

Sam Malone and Diane Chambers.

Don Draper and Megan Calvet.

Bet you can guess where we’re going with this post…

It’s February, and love is in the air! But while TV romances might (sometimes) be lovely, work romances in the real world can be decidedly less so, especially if you’re in HR.

We live in a litigious society. If you don’t have a formal policy for workplace relationships, your organization could be at risk for discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuits. While this post is intended for informational purposes only (and is not a substitute for professional legal advice), here are a few tips to craft a policy that protects your organization without killing Cupid:

Know the law – and the stance your organization wants to take. In some states, privacy laws prevent employers from prohibiting employee relationships, unless they present a conflict of interest, while other states leave more to the employer’s discretion. Here are a few options to consider:

  • No-dating policies typically ban dating between a supervisor and their subordinate.
  • Notification policies require employees involved in a romantic work relationship to disclose when they enter into a consensual relationship, as well as when that relationship ends.
  • Love contracts require two employees engaged in a romantic relationship to sign a legal document that declares their relationship is by consent – and that they understand the organization’s dating policy and behavioral expectations. In general, a love contract protects the employer by making arbitration the only grievance process available to the individuals in the relationship.

Learn what you may and may not do as an employer in your state, and consult with a licensed employment law expert if you need help drafting your policy.

Put it in writing. Add the policy to your employee handbook. Require all employees to provide written acknowledgment that they have received, reviewed and understand the policy.

Take steps to make sure your policy is implemented properly. In an earlier post, we shared tips to make sure the workplace relationship policy you worked so hard to create is enforced – and not ignored. You can read the full post here, which includes tips like:

  • Communicating your policy
  • Securing buy-in at all levels of the organization
  • Creating a sense of urgency for rollout and enforcement
  • Obtaining written acknowledgment
  • Creating timelines and metrics to gauge effectiveness

Make reporting and coaching as easy as possible. An office romance that goes south can make work awkward – or worse. Regardless of how lenient or restrictive your policy is, employees should feel welcome to report any activity that makes them uncomfortable or puts your organization at risk. Similarly, managers and supervisors should receive adequate training so that they feel comfortable coaching co-worker couples whose behavior results in low morale, diminished productivity or undesirable behaviors.

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Whether you need a temporary HR specialist to help you draft effective workplace policies, or long-term solutions to minimize employment risks and increase compliance, PrideStaff is your ideal partner. What can we do for you? Contact your local PrideStaff office today to learn more.