Each year, February 14 presents a challenge for business owners.
How much celebrating should be encouraged or barred?
What dating policies are in place or should there be any?
How can everyone avoid hurting some employees’ feelings?
Challenging questions for sure, especially in today’s #MeToo / #TimesUp environment.
Here are some ideas to keep everyone comfortable and safe on Valentine’s Day.
Do have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place
You don’t want flirting or other behavior to make other employees uncomfortable, or feel they are being sexually harassed. Guidance on what to know about sexual harassment in the workplace was covered in an earlier blog.
Don’t have an office party for Valentine's Day
This isn’t something everyone likes to celebrate. And certainly, you don’t want some employees to feel any financial imposition for the day.
Do share with everyone
If an employee brings goodies, be sure there’s enough for all employees, not just a select few. You don’t want any employees to be left out.
Don’t get personal
Owners should refrain from inquiring about employees’ personal life that doesn’t concern the company. It’s also a good idea as part of company policy to discourage gossip.
Do think about a dating policy
Work is where many people find their life partners, although the numbers are significantly lower than in the past due to the prevalence of online dating sites. However, when co-workers date, it can impede their productivity and make other workers uncomfortable. And if there’s a breakup, one or both parties may feel awkward. Owners have latitude in creating a dating policy, as long as it doesn’t impinge on employees’ privacy and state law permits such a policy.
Some reasonable restrictions, for example, could be:
- Banning dating between anyone with authority over another (e.g., a supervisor and subordinate).
- Restricting dating within a department.
- Requiring disclosure to protect the employer. For example, consider having the parties sign an acknowledgment (love contracts?) that the relationship is consensual and that they will not hold the company liable for sexual harassment.
Be sure any dating policy you consider is reviewed by an employment law attorney to make sure you haven’t crossed any lines.
Ann Landers said: “Love is friendship that has caught fire.”
Who knows what your office atmosphere may stoke?