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Workplace romances are nothing new, but as people increasingly spend more time at work, offices have become the new singles bar. In a 2005 survey, 58% of respondents admitted to a workplace romance, up from 47% in 2003. Surveys elsewhere paint a similar picture.
In the past, most employers adopted strict no-dating policies forbidding workplace relationships. Yet in recent years many have backed away from hard-line positions and instead tackle the issue through a code of conduct enforced on a case-by-case basis.
How you deal with workplace romance can and should vary, depending on your business environment. While workplace romance can have a positive impact on work performance, it also can be distracting and destructive to both the couple involved and other employees. Employers must acknowledge inappropriate conduct and communicate acceptable workplace behavior.
Two areas where employers need to be particularly vigilant:
1. Supervisor/subordinate relationships. Be on high alert if this type of relationship develops in your business—it’s among the most legally dangerous for employers. Because of this, some companies forbid supervisor/subordinate relationships outright. At a minimum, you should require all supervisors to report such a relationship, so that it can be monitored.
2. Adulterous affairs. These relationships can be among the most distracting and disturbing to other employees.
Remember, as an employer, you have the prerogative to adopt an all-purpose policy prohibiting personal relationships of any kind that affect the operations and best interests of your business.
Senior Executive Counsel
National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation
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