As Valentine’s Day approaches, employers advised to keep an eye out for inappropriate conduct
Workplace romances are nothing new. Even post-Covid, many people spend more waking hours in the workplace than they do at home. But with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, the NFIB Small Business Legal Center warns that while workplace romance can have a positive impact on employees’ performance, office affairs can also be distracting and destructive to both the couple involved and others in the workplace.
“Prohibiting office romance isn’t really practical as people will nearly always find a way around an unrealistic office policy,” said Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel with the NFIB Small Business Legal Center, “but employers must stop inappropriate conduct and communicate acceptable workplace behavior.”
Consider the following tips to minimize distraction and maximize appropriate workplace comradery:
- Understand your obligation to prevent harassment, including sexual harassment, in the workplace. Establish a policy and enforce it. NFIB provides a free model policy here.
- Be on high alert for supervisor-subordinate relationships. These can be among the most dangerous, legally, for employers. The relationship can lead to resentment among co-workers who feel that the employee dating the manager is being favored. And after the break-up, watch out! Be prepared to defend against discrimination claims from the jilted subordinate employee.
- Have an open-door policy. While it’s unrealistic to prohibit workplace dating, establish an open policy that makes it easy for employees to talk about these issues with you. So, if things go south, you’ll be the first to hear about it.
- Public display of affection (aka PDA) is a no-no in the office. Don’t be afraid to speak up and stop it. No kissing, hugging, or hand holding in the office. Don’t be afraid to speak up and stop public displays of physical intimacy between employees.
- Finally – be consistent. The same rules need to apply to everyone.