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Love contracts in the office?

Love contracts in the office?

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Many employees have signed non-disclosure agreements or non-compete agreements, but a love contract?  With all the recent news around sexual harassment in the workplace, employers are taking a new, stricter stance on romance in the office.

While some companies outright ban office romances altogether, many now require what is called a love contract.  As companies are reviewing their sexual harassment policies, many are using these love contracts to protect themselves from potential liability surrounding sexual harassment.

A love contract is a consensual agreement signed by two employees involved in a romantic relationship at work.  The agreement acknowledges the relationship and company harassment policies.  It is meant to remind employees who are dating of the policies and laws surrounding sexual harassment.  These agreements are in addition to having a solid sexual harassment policy for the whole organization.  They typically contain provisions that attest that the relationship is consensual and acknowledge that either party is allowed to leave the relationship at anytime without fear of retaliation.  Keep in mind; however, that contracts such as these are not typically legally enforceable.  50% of sexual harassment suits arise from relationships that began as consensual.

The good news is that office romances are on the decline.  In fact, it’s hit a 10-year low, according to CareerBuilder’s annual Valentine’s Day survey.  According to the recent survey, 36% of workers reported dating a co-worker, which is down from 41% last year.  “Office romance is experiencing a dip and whether it’s impacted by the current environment around sexual harassment or by workers not wanting to admit the truth, the fact remains that office romance has been around forever and will continue to be,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. So while office romance is on the decline, it still exists.  And due to human nature, most likely always will.  Employers should have a policy in place that covers how employees should handle and report any inter-office dating.  

While most organizations frown upon or prohibit relationships between superiors and subordinates (99% according to SHRM), the CareerBuilder survey reports that 30% of the employees surveyed have dated someone who was at a higher level than them.  22% of workers report dating someone who was their boss.
A 2013 survey by SHRM revealed that 54% of employers have a policy that addresses at-work dating.  While it is virtually impossible to truly ban all interoffice romances, it is important to have policies in place.  In this era of the #metoo movement, you can never be too careful with this topic.
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