FEBRUARY 13, 2013
Employers need to be aware when Cupid calls at work. Act PDQ on the PDA
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Workplace romances are nothing new, but as people increasingly spend more time at work, offices have become the new singles bars. With Valentine’s Day next week, the Legal Center for America’s premier small-business association today warned that while office romances can have a positive impact on work performance, they can also be distracting and destructive to both the couple involved and others in the workplace.
“Employers must acknowledge inappropriate conduct and communicate acceptable workplace behavior, especially around the week leading up to Valentine’s Day when employees may think the time right to be either a little more forward with a co-worker or more open about a romance,” said Karen Harned, attorney and executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center.
1. Understand your obligation to prevent harassment, including sexual harassment, in the workplace.
2. 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 claims from the subordinate employee that he or she was coerced into the relationship and discriminated against.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up. While you might be loath to step into what’s perceived as a personal issue, you shouldn’t hesitate to put a stop to behavior that interferes with a professional environment. Don’t make it into a bigger deal than it is. Call the couple into your office and say “Kristine and Tom, you need to be really careful on the PDA (personal display of affection) front. We can’t kiss and hug in the office. "
4. Be consistent. The same rules need to apply to everyone.
5. 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.