. If you own a company, chances are you've had to decide (and at times reassess) whether to allow consensual dating and romantic relationships among your employees -- or, in legalese, whether and to what extent to adopt an office "non-fraternization" policy. Although there are no laws which outright prohibit interoffice relationships, as shown in the news of late, they carry obvious risks, such as: Lastly, when romantic relationships fail (and let's not kid ourselves -- they usually do), there is the possibility one or both participants may view the once blissful (and consensual) detente through a lens of revisionist history -- fertile ground for headline-grabbing and costly sex harassment litigation. On the other hand, many view workplace relationships as an inevitable byproduct of today's interconnected world. This trend may continue to gain steam. For example, polling suggests millennials are much more open to office romance than their older counterparts. The Law and Workplace Dating. Again, there are no laws which prohibit employee dating per se. Of course, as with any personnel policy or practice, decisions around employee dating will be subject to general anti-discrimination scrutiny. This means employers can face discrimination liability if, for example, it is shown they permitted dating among employees who are under 40 but not among employees over 40, among straight employees but not gay employees and the like. Beyond these risks, the primary concern around workplace dating is that, one day, a participant in the relationship (scorned or otherwise) later claims the relationship was in fact a form of sex harassment. Notably for purposes of employee dating, there has also been some litigation surrounding "sexual favoritism," or the theory that it is unlawful discrimination for an employee to show preferential treatment to that person's romantic partner at the expense of other employees not involved in the relationship (although -- full disclaimer -- courts are not uniformly aligned on this issue, and employers in many instances may have sound legal and factual defenses). No matter how you look at it, both legal and practical risks abound when someone has to supervise (or even indirectly analyze or critique the work performance of) their special someone. With this legal backdrop in mind, here are a few tips for crafting non-fraternization policies: 1. Do not allow managers to have romantic relationships with subordinate employees -- full stop. All the risks associated with interoffice dating are exacerbated when there is an inherent power imbalance between a supervisor and that person's subordinate. However, if you find yourself in a situation in which you believe you have no choice (operationally) but to allow such a relationship, actively manage the risk. Do not bury your head in the sand and hope things work out. Lastly, in this context, you should give strong thought to having both parties acknowledge, in writing, the voluntary and consensual nature of the relationship. Provisions you might include in this document (sometimes called a "love contract") are an acknowledgement of the company's anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies, an agreement not to engage in PDA in the office, and a commitment to inform the company if the relationship becomes "unwelcome" in any way, or if the employee believes they are subject to any form of retaliation or other inappropriate conduct. Although this does not fully insulate you from later liability, and still might be perceived by some employees as heavy-handed or overly paternalistic, it no doubt helps to mitigate the risk and helps try to avoid/defend costly litigation. 2. If you make the decision to allow peer-to-peer relationships, create a culture of transparency and openness. Some employers may decide that, for their culture and risk tolerance, it makes sense to ban all types of workplace dating. If, however, you decide to allow some form of peer-to-peer dating, address it head on. For instance, require employees to report these relationships to management and/or to HR. Continue to encourage, and make it easy, for employees to report sex harassment complaints and continue to build a culture of shared responsibility. Although employee-employee relationships generally carry fewer risks than supervisor-employee romances, you may nonetheless consider utilizing some form of the "love contracts" described above. Regardless of your ultimate policy decision on this tricky issue -- whether you choose to ban all forms of workplace dating or you measuredly decide to be a bit more flexible -- be prepared to enforce your non-fraternization policies consistently and in a non-discriminatory manner. Be vigilant, do not make exceptions and treat all relationships the same -- regardless of the participants' gender or sexual orientation. This article does not constitute legal advice. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, company, or individual. Fraternization Policy Sample. This dating policy prohibits certain co-worker relationships. The dating or fraternization policy adopted by an organization reflects the culture of the organization. Employee-oriented, forward-thinking workplaces recognize that one of the places where employees meet their eventual spouse or partner is at work. Workplace Romance in the #metoo Era. Workplace relationships make sense because of the commonalities co-workers share—such as proximity to work, the actual work, the amount of time one spends at work, and the interests underlying one's career choice. Friendships and romances can also affect the workplace positively, adding to the sense of teamwork and camaraderie. But, relationships can also go awry and result in friction and conflict at work. This can affect the team, the department, and even the mood of the organization when stress permeates the air. In the #metoo era, which took off on social media starting in 2017, heightened awareness of boundaries and the difference between harmless flirting and sexual harassment make workplace critically important. Waves of executives in positions of authority across all industries (most of them men) have lost their jobs in the wake of a vocal outcry against using power to extract sexual favors from male and female underlings. Minimizing Impact. The key to a fraternization policy is to minimize the impact of the things that can go wrong in the workplace while maximizing the powerfully positive aspects of employee relationships. You also want to identify relationships that are forbidden because of their potential impact at work. As with any policy, you should develop the policy for the good of the working relationships in a whole group of employees. Don't put a policy in place to control the behavior of a few employees whose behavior is out of line. It's worth noting that the consequence of a too-restrictive policy is that fraternization policies that prohibit even friendships and associations outside of work cause employees to deceive and cover-up. They also encourage gossip, job dissatisfaction, and low morale. Contents of Fraternization Policies. Prohibit romantic relationships between a manager and a reporting staff member. Prohibit dating relationships between employees who are separated by two levels in the chain of command, regardless of the reporting relationship or department. Define the romantic and friendly behavior that is acceptable and what is not acceptable. State the potential consequences of breaking the policy. Provide courses of action that leave an employee with opportunities to understand and follow the policy. Sample Dating or Fraternization Policy. Company employees may date and develop friendships and relationships with other employees—both inside and outside of the workplace—as long as the relationships don't have a negative impact on their work or the work of others. Any relationship that interferes with the company culture of teamwork, the harmonious work environment, or the productivity of employees, will be addressed by applying the progressive discipline policy up to and including employment termination. Adverse workplace behavior—or behavior that affects the workplace that arises because of personal relationships—will not be tolerated. Anyone employed in a managerial or supervisory role needs to heed the fact that personal relationships with employees who report to them may be perceived as favoritism, misuse of authority, or potentially, sexual harassment and consequently, they are unacceptable. For the same reason, no employee may date another employee who is separated by more than one level in the chain of command. This includes an employee who reports to their boss's counterpart in another department. Additionally, any fraternization is prohibited with any employee who reports to the manager or whose terms and conditions of employment—such as pay raises, promotions, and advancement—are potentially affected by the manager. The fraternization that is prohibited by this policy includes dating, romantic involvement, and sexual relations; close friendships are discouraged in any reporting relationship. Employees who disregard this policy will receive disciplinary actions up to and including employment termination. Language on Consequences of Dating and Affairs. A manager or supervisor who dates or becomes romantically involved with an employee creates a serious problem for the company. Dating an employee, and extramarital affairs, even when the employee is not in a reporting relationship, creates serious consequences for the company. It can affect the careers of both employees with regard to advancement opportunities, choices of jobs, and assignments. Clearly, these relationships can result in charges of sexual harassment, years or decades after the fact. If a manager decides to pursue a close relationship with an employee, they need to inform their manager and Human Resources immediately. The company will then decide what, if any, actions are necessary to take in regard to assignments and jobs. Employees have different definitions and understandings of what constitutes a close relationship, a friendship, or romantic involvement. Consequently, if you have questions or need further clarification, talk with the head of the Human Resources department. Their goal of implementing policies consistently and fairly will help inform your choices. The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. For current legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney. Employee relationships in the workplace policy. Customize this workplace romance policy based on your company’s attitude toward employee dating. Add or delete parts to communicate applicable rules regarding romantic relationships in the workplace and preserve harmony and fairness among all employees. Policy brief & purpose. Our workplace dating policy provides guidelines our employees should follow when they’re romantically or sexually involved with a colleague. We also set some standards for acceptable behavior when flirting with colleagues. We don’t want to place undue restrictions on employees dating each other, as everyone should be free to choose their partners. But, we want to make sure that relationships won’t cause awkwardness or problems in our workplace. Scope. In the context of this policy, “employee dating” includes consensual romantic relationships and sexual relations. We explicitly prohibit non-consensual relationships. Policy elements. Before you date a colleague. Before you decide to date a colleague, please consider any problems or conflicts of interest that may arise. For example, if you’re working with a colleague on an important project, a relationship between the two of you (or a possible breakup) could affect your work. Make sure you’ve thought about all parameters before making a decision. Acceptable behavior. While we don’t object to employee relationships, our workplace is still a professional setting. We expect our employees to treat each other with respect and avoid hindering other people’s work. If you want to express your romantic interest in a colleague, don’t do anything that may embarrass or expose them and always respect their time and choices. [ You’re allowed to ask a colleague on a date only once. If they say ‘no’ or give an ambiguous answer, don’t ask again. ] If a colleague is persistent in flirting with you and becomes annoying or disturbs your work, ask them to stop and inform your manager [ if they continue ]. Please report them to HR if they make unwanted sexual advances. Sexual harassment is prohibited, including seemingly harmless actions. For example, an employee who keeps flirting when their colleague doesn’t respond favorably is breaking our sexual harassment policy. In this case, they will face disciplinary action. For more details on what constitutes sexual harassment and how to report it, please refer to our anti-harassment policy. When you begin dating a colleague. HR won’t get involved in your private lives and will always be discreet. You don’t need to tell us if you go on a few dates with a colleague or become involved for [ less than two months ], as long as there’s no disruption in the workplace or your own work. But if your relationship lasts longer than [ two months ], please inform HR. We want to be aware of these relationships so we can better handle gossip or conflicts of interest. Keep your personal issues and discussions out of the workplace. Be productive and focused as always. If you find that your work is affected by dating a colleague, seek counseling from your manager, HR or specialized employee (e.g. pany psychologist). Acceptable behavior. Passing by your partner’s office to talk to them for a short time. Discussing your joint vacation plans during breaks Coming to and leaving from work together. Arguing in the workplace. Kissing or touching inappropriately in front of colleagues or clients Exchanging an excessive number of instant messages or calls during working hours Boasting about or discussing your relationship in your colleagues’ presence. After you stop dating a colleague. If your relationship ends, maintain professionalism and ensure you won’t disrupt our workplace. You mustn’t badmouth your former partner, sabotage their work or reveal any intimate details. All these break our code of conduct about respect in the workplace and you will face disciplinary action. If your former partner behaves this way, report them to HR and we will investigate as soon as possible. If you’re facing emotional or psychological issues, [ ask HR about our employee assistance program ]. [ You could also ask whether your insurance provider covers any therapy sessions with an external mental health professional. ] Dating managers. To avoid accusations of favoritism and abuse of authority, we strictly prohibit supervisors from dating their team members or those who report to their team members (directly or indirectly). If they do, they’ll face disciplinary action up to and including termination. Managers who are from the level of [ senior director ] and above are also forbidden from dating anyone who is below the same level, even if they’re in another department. Managers who are below the level of [ senior director ] may have a relationship with colleagues from other teams or departments, as long as that person is at the same level or within two levels below them. For example, a [ department head ] can date a [ senior manager ] from another department but they can’t date an intern who’s more than two levels below them in rank. If you broke our rules by dating someone who’s a direct report or below the acceptable level of seniority, it’s in your best interest to disclose your relationship as you may face more severe disciplinary action when you’re discovered. Employees will not face demotion, victimization or loss of benefits. Managers may receive a reprimand depending on the circumstances. We may terminate those who repeatedly disregard this restriction. When one of the former partners becomes a manager. If an employee gets promoted or transferred from another department, they may find themselves managing a colleague they used to date. In this case, either of the two should let us know. When managing a former partner, you must be extra careful with how you behave towards them. You’re not allowed to favor or retaliate against them. You should do everything possible to prove that you’re treating every team member in a fair and professional way. Document every information or incident necessary for performance reviews and ask for your manager or HR’s advice if you need to discipline or reward your former partner. Couples who are married or in a domestic partnership. If you’re the hiring manager for your team, you’re not allowed to consider your spouse or partner for hiring. Doing so might raise questions of favoritism in the hiring process. You are allowed to refer your partner to other teams or departments where you don’t have any managerial authority. One of you should transfer to another team or department. If you choose this option, HR will try to ensure that the transfer won’t negatively affect your salary or benefits. One of you should quit. This option will be the only solution if a transfer isn’t possible (like in cases where there’s no position relevant to your own in another department). HR won’t have a say in who will eventually quit, make this decision between yourselves. Our company’s commitment about romantic relationships in the workplace. Enforce this policy equally to all employees including HR and senior management Treat everyone equally when taking disciplinary action without discriminating against protected characteristics Prohibit victimization, violence and retaliation of any kind Examine each case separately and consider all aspects and perspectives before making decisions. All of us must follow our equal employment opportunity policy at all times. For example, HR must not penalize a homosexual couple differently than a heterosexual couple when they both have violated our employee relationships policy in the same manner. 5 Rules to Dating in the Workplace. Meeting another person who shares your passion is enthralling; here is someone who’s devoted to the same vocation as you, someone who also holds your great talents and unique set of skills. Add in physical attraction, natural chemistry, and seeing him or her daily, and this can lead to serious workplace romance. What makes dating in the workplace both common and irresistible is mutual purpose ; striving for similar goals is a deep bonding factor. How not to fall in love? All of the above rang true for Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, recently engaged hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. It was sharing the same career that lay the bricks of their love over time. Beyond seeing each other every day, Joe and Mika also have solid chemistry. They’re in sync in terms of their intentions and actions, complementary on and off the camera. Both are meticulous and powerful, dynamic and animated—traits that they discovered only by working together. Like many workplace couples, they understand that working together can actually help their relationship: as the anchors noted, they’re forced to settle their disagreements before going on air. Not all workplace romances are this ideal, and certainly some are more complicated than others. But if you find yourself in a relationship with your coworker, implement these five rules for successful workplace dating: Separate business and pleasure. Once you enter the doors of your workplace, your partner should become your coworker and nothing more. Pay attention not to act like a couple at work, as this can be distracting and cause your peers to feel uncomfortable. Shut out all relationship matters until the moment you both leave work. Forget the fact that you had a fight that morning, that you can’t wait to sleep together, etc. Don’t bring stress from home into the workplace but also don’t bring stress from the workplace into your home. This requires some discipline, but dissociating these two elements will benefit both your love and your job. Use your connection to your advantage. You will feel more comfortable around your significant other than other peers, of course. Use the spark that already exists between you to excel in your work duties. You know exactly what your partner is good at or what he or she may have trouble with. Aid each other in projects and tasks, from reminding your partner about a deadline to giving them ideas about a presentation. This doesn’t mean that you’ll perform your partner’s work, but that you should support each other inside the office just as much as you do outside of it. Be aware of your behavior. Understand that your significant other will be much more attentive to you than to others. Your partner may see you innocently flirting with a peer and become jealous when anyone else wouldn’t notice. Or, your partner may get upset that a coworker is treating you badly, whereas other peers would remain oblivious to the unfair treatment. Heightened sensitivity is one of the obstacle of workplace dating. Observe your actions so as not to create drama that seeps from your job into your relationship. Don’t volunteer information. Once your relationship becomes serious, you’ll have to be open and honest with your superiors. But as much as your boss will have to know the truth, your peers have to know nothing. Your private life is just that: yours and private. You don’t need to brag to all the ladies around the office that you’re dating handsome Hank, why, or for how long. Don’t make the workplace a gossip hall about your romance; external influences can ravage a perfectly good relationship. Never divulge personal details about your significant other to your coworkers, as it can be both embarrassing and damaging to your partner’s career. Set up a plan B. As much as you both may be in love today, there’s no telling what tomorrow can bring. You and your partner need to be on the same page in case the relationship ends. You can’t be expected to quit your job just because you broke up! Come to terms on how you would handle a separation if it ever comes to that. If you feel it’s necessary, you can even write up an agreement and sign it to ensure you’ll both stick to your promises. Workplace dating can be tricky to say the least. But love will find a way, as it often does, and two people who genuinely fit each other should be together no matter their employment. Consider the rules above to fulfill your career, your partner, and your own joy. Workplace Romance is a Recipe for Disaster. Anti-: A New Era for C-Level Execs. When McDonald’s learned its 52-year-old CEO Steve Easterbrook was “Lovin’ It” with a subordinate, it quickly fired him and forced his resignation from the board of directors. This was not a matter of sexual harassment or a superior forcing themselves onto a subordinate. The CEO and the subordinate entered into a consensual dating relationship. And, it’s not just McDonald’s that prohibits employee fraternization. In the last few years, even CEO/C-Level execs at Intel, Hewlett Packard, Boeing, Priceline and BestBuy have been fired for dating company employees. In the #MeToo era, the trend is for companies to adopt anti- against romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinates. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management determined that approximately half of U.S. panies have instituted formal policies against certain consensual relationships, or anti-. This total is up 25% from 2005. And, CEOs and other C-suite execs, no matter how valuable to the company, are no longer untouchable in today’s environment. That’s because if a company ignores violations by its C-suite leaders, how can it enforce any of its policies against the rest of its employees?
Employees dating one another, even managers dating employees they supervise isn’t illegal. However, most employment attorneys advise companies to adopt strict “no-dating” policies (anti-fraternization policies). ch policies reduce sexual harassment claims and allegations of favoritism. And, even if a consensual relationship doesn’t lead to a sexual harassment or hostile environment claim, it can create workplace tension. ch situations could arise when the “couple” has a disagreement at work, brings their “off-site” relationship squabbles to work or they break up. Implementing and Enforcing Anti-. Companies concerned about fraternization issues can customize their policies to meet their goals. For example, anti- can permit dating by co-workers, but prohibit managers/direct reports from dating. Companies adopting anti-dating should distribute the policy in their Code of Conduct or employee handbook. And, they should regularly remind employees of the policy. Finally, companies should consistently enforce such a policy. Rogge Dunn Group’s business and employment attorneys have extensive experience assisting companies when they implement policies to reduce workplace liability. Connect with us to discuss how proactive policies can reduce risk and limit employers’ liability. 6 Tips for Crafting an Employee Dating Policy. Office romance often leads to an uptick in watercooler gossip. Here’s how to craft an employee dating policy that doesn’t risk retaliation. Please login to bookmark. Please login to bookmark. Love is in the air alright, but chances are, it’s been there all year long: 56% of business professionals say they’ve been in relationships with coworkers. That percentage is on the rise, and it’s no surprise: we spend one-third of our lives at work. So, is it possible to allow cupid’s arrows in the office—but steer clear of legal landmines? In Defense of Dating. In our lifetimes, we’ll spend 90,000+ hours at our jobs, and we build organic relationships with the people we see everyday. When it comes to meeting people, the office is the new village. “You get to see people at their best and at their worst,” says Helen Olen, co-author of Office Mate. “Whatever matters to you… what’s important to you, you get to see in an office.” This differs from casual meetups at bars or online where people may show only certain sides of themselves. Office relationships often also rise out of office friendships, in which mutual trust is already present. Though traditionally maligned for reasons I’m about to get into, office romance can be beneficial for businesses. Frederick S. Lane III, author of The Naked Employee, sees employee dating as a way to increase employee engagement. He argues that co-worker couples spend more time at work, take fewer sick days, and are less likely to quit. Bloomberg Business reports that National Public Radio, Princeton Review, Pixar, and Southwest Airlines encourage in-house matchmaking for these reasons. In fact, Southwest Airlines counts 7% of its staff with spouses who also work for the company. Rules of Attraction. In an era of lawsuits, it’s wise for organizations to have a written or verbal employee dating policy. These policies clarify the company’s rules on relationships between coworkers, supervisors and subordinates, as well as employees and clients, vendors, and competitors. When it comes to employee dating, job title and department matter. According to a 2013 SHRM survey, only 32% of HR professionals think employers should have the right to prohibit office romance outright, but a whopping 95% voted to restrict romance between a supervisor and a direct report. What’s at Stake?
The way we view office romance is changing, alongside the blending of our personal and professional lives. More employees are dating each other, and fewer HR leaders view these relationships as unprofessional (just 29% in 2013, down from 58% in 2005). So why does office romance get a bad rep?
The employee dating dynamic can cause distraction, morale issues and claims of real or perceived favoritism. When a workplace relationship goes south, the parties involved must still see each other every day in the office. This can lead to awkward encounters, and the potential for claims of sexual harassment and retaliation. Retaliation. The biggest threat to office romance is the retaliation lawsuit. 22% of workers say they suffered retaliation after an office romance ended. Retaliation can take many forms: termination, shift changes, pay cuts, transfers, and other adverse actions have been found to be retaliatory. Over the past 10 years, retaliation claims grew 70%— and are now the most common type of complaint with the EEOC. “Love Contracts” In some states, privacy laws prevent an employer from restricting employee relationships—unless a conflict of interest is involved. A romantic relationship between a supervisor and subordinate provides the potential for a conflict and the opportunity for the employer to require a love contract. Consensual relationship agreements or “love contracts” are signed documents indicating that an office romance is consensual, and the employees will not engage in favoritism or take legal action against the employer or each other if the relationship ends. “Having people dating each other can wreak havoc on an organization, especially a small organization,” says Lynn D. Lieber, an employment law attorney and founder of Workplace Answers. “Love contracts help maintain a functional office environment.” Here’s 6 more tips to keep the office running smoothly when love is in the air. 6 Tips for Crafting an Employee Dating Policy. 1. Establish an employee dating policy. When designing the policy, choose between full freedom, freedom with restrictions, or freedom with disclosure. As supervisor/subordinate relationships can create actual or potential conflicts of interest, it is common for policies to restrict them or require those involved to disclose the relationship to HR. No one wants to feel policed, so keep the employee dating policy focused on the specific behaviors that disrupt the office vs. abstract rules and regulations. 2. Broadcast your sexual harassment policy. Have a formal sexual harassment policy posted in the office and included in your employee handbook. Train employees that the company has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and require employees to sign a document indicating they understand the policy. Additionally, use of love contracts is a way to mitigate risk of sexual harassment liability. 3. Train managers and supervisors. Managers and supervisors should be comfortable coaching co-worker couples if their behavior results in low morale or productivity. They should apply policy consistently and take measures to avoid real or perceived favoritism. In some states, the interpretation of sexual harassment laws includes third parties: If an employee views a supervisor as favoring a subordinate, the employee can sue the company. 4. Encourage transparency and squash gossip. Office relationships often inspire gossip, which can impede productivity and damage careers. Promote an open, transparent environment, so that employees are less inclined to hide their relationships—and coworkers are less likely to gossip. 5. Make it easy to report inappropriate activity. Sexual comments and disruptive behavior can render a workplace uncomfortable and unproductive. Managers and supervisors need to be familiar with the company’s disciplinary actions and empowered to enforce them. Employees should feel OK reporting activity that puts the company at risk. 6. Get Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). Lawsuits brought by employees against their employers are on the rise, and small businesses are not immune. An EPLI endorsement to a small business commercial policy can help protect businesses in the case of a retaliation lawsuit. Ask your broker if EPLI is right for you. Mixing Business With Pleasure: in the Workplace. In this day and age, every company should enact a workplace dating policy, or review or update its current policy. In the absence of a dating policy or when there is an unclear policy, an office relationship can have harmful effects. For instance, if the couple’s relationship acrimoniously ends, employers may face legal consequences including charges of sexual harassment. Employers need to understand that maintaining a harmonious and productive work environment is vital to a company’s profitability and success. Hence, it is essential that employers enact or revise their company’s . Based on the amount of time most people spend at work, it is likely a couple would meet at work. The workplace is a unique environment that provides a pre-selected pool of people who share one important area of common ground: the workplace. It is also likely that coworkers will date because they see each other every day and live within a reasonable distance from their office and each other. There are various consequences that stem from workplace romances. Aside from the legal consequences that may arise out of dating in the workplace, interoffice relationships also include other potential pitfalls prompting employers to ban coworkers from dating. Employers may fear: Favoritism: This is a risk if one partner in the relationship is in a supervisory position or otherwise has the ability to grant favors for the other. Productivity losses: These may arise if there is too much time spent on personal pursuits rather than work. Office relationships may also create gossip and become a distraction for other employees. Retaliatory behavior: If the relationship ends badly, the ex-couple may not choose to work amicably with each other. Further, if the animosity escalates and one former partner has the ability to give negative reviews, demote, or terminate the other, the company may face potential lawsuits. Security issues: It is possible that a personal romantic dispute may become violent. Reputation damage: If a relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate is discovered, this could not only damage the both of their reputations, but could lead to loss of confidence from shareholders or clients. Turnover: As a result of relationship problems, there is a greater chance that one or both of the partners will choose to leave the company to remedy the situation. Moreover, this is also a concern when the relationship is going well because a partner may feel their options are limited at the company because of the relationship. However, a complete ban on any workplace romantic involvement carries its own consequences. Many people meet at work before they initiate a romantic relationship. Enacting a total prohibition on inter-company dating can decrease morale and possibly result in the loss of employees who wish to date coworkers but cannot. Practically speaking, this type of dating policy is incredibly difficult to enforce and this type of policy is seen as onerous, overreaching and intrusive. Employers should enact a dating policy that will reduce potential legal liability. Short of banning all workplace dating, an employer may limit the prohibition to only those relationships in which one romantic partner has a role of authority over the other or where one partner must directly report to the other partner. This type of policy will minimize the risks associated with interoffice dating. A common stipulation included in a workplace dating policy is to simply discourage workplace romances. This alone may be enough to avoid some of the issues inherent in interoffice dating, but it stops short of being a complete prohibition. Employers may also choose to prohibit employees from dating coworkers in the same department as each other. Essentially, each partner in the relationship would not work directly with one another. Another option in a dating policy may include a notification or disclosure of a relationship policy. This policy would require the couple to report whenever they enter into a consensual relationship. This type of policy will also help protect the company from later charges that the relationship was not consensual and constituted sexual harassment. After disclosure, employers can take steps to minimize the problems associated with dating in the workplace. For instance, employers may have couples sign acknowledgments stating they will act professionally and not act like a couple at work. Employers can also outline the consequences of breaking the rules required of couples in the workplace. Additionally the couple would be required to notify the employer when the relationship ends. Since a notification and disclosure policy may seem intrusive, the manager or supervisor to whom the employees are reporting the relationship to must be required to not disclose any information provided by the couple to protect their privacy. Whatever type of dating policy your company implements, that policy must be drafted clearly and communicated to all employees, supervisors and managers. Moreover, it is important for such dating policy to be enforced fairly and consistently – not in a way that discriminates. For instance, if the dating policy requires that one of the partners must leave the company if a relationship is discovered, it cannot always be the woman who is forced to leave. Employers should also training their managers and supervisors on how to enforce the dating policy. Enacting a formal policy does not require that a manager must write someone up every time he finds out about a casual date. However, that manager must act immediately if productivity is affected, if there are complaints from other employees, or if conflict and gossip relating to the relationship is tearing a department apart. Employers must realize that enacting a dating policy is not merely drafting the terms of the policy to be included in a handbook. Absent communication to employees regarding the standards they are expected to follow and adequate training of managers and supervisors on how to enforce the policy, a dating policy merely included in your handbook is not adequate or sufficient. Employers must follow through with all aspects of implementing a dating policy to maintain a productive and healthy workplace environment.