Valentine’s Day is a time for romance. As actress/singer Pearl Bailey said: “What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork.” But in this era of the #MeToo movement, there is the potential for sexual harassment violations within a company.
Can you or should you set a dating policy?
About office romances
It’s a fact that office romances are common. Vault’s 2018 Office Romance Survey found that 52% of workers said they’d had at least one office romance; “hookups” were the most common type.
But the survey also found that views about office romances are changing. According to a, 31% of men said they are less likely to find workplace romances unacceptable. In fact, 43% of all respondents said that romances between colleagues of different levels (e.g., supervisor and subordinate) are unacceptable.
About dating policies
According to that same survey, only about 2% of businesses forbid all dating among employees, while 36% allow it in some circumstances. About one in five companies didn’t have any policy.
What should you do about a dating policy for your company?
- Decide whether to have a dating policy. Having a policy isn’t mandatory. Some companies have general guidelines; others get into great specifics. According to Slate, at Facebook, employees are only permitted to ask a co-worker out once. If the answer is no (even an ambiguous one such as “I’m busy” or “I can’t tonight”), this bars any further dating requests.
- Consider what restrictions to impose. If you decide to have a dating policy, consider whether to bar dating between employees in the same department or between supervisors and subordinates.
- Draft a consensual relationship agreement if desired. This may sound very legalistic, but is certainly bars any future objections that one party was coerced into dating. Obviously, signing the agreement cannot be a condition of employment. You can find a template for this online (search for “consensual relationship agreement” or “love contract”). Be sure your attorney reviews it before you put it into use.
- Determine consequences for policy violations. If you do set policy, then also spell out what happens to employees who violate the policy.
Whether or not you institute a dating policy, it is essential that you have a sexual harassment policy and instruct employees about it. California now has a mandatory 1-hour sexual harassment education requirement (2 hours of training for supervisors). The law is staged in according to the number of employees. By January 1, 2020, it will apply to employers with 5 or more employees.
Even though online dating is prevalent today, one source found that 15% of people met there significant others through work. So tread lightly on rules that may depress romance.