Lisa Gallivan & Alison Strachan
Lisa Gallivan & Alison Strachan, Stewart McKelvey
 

With all the love in the air around Valentine’s Day, it’s a good time for employers to consider the reality that love may be happening at their workplace and to take some simple steps to make sure that workplace love does not interfere with workplace business.

Never underestimate the amount of love happening amongst staff at your workplace. Reports of workplace love are not rare. CareerBuilder’s February 2013 survey of more than 4,000 workers in the United States says:

  • 39% of workers said they have dated a co-worker at least once over the course of their career;
  • 17% reported dating co-workers at least twice.
  • 30%  of those who have dated a co-worker said their office romance led them to the altar.

Although that 30% may have ended up happy, the others may not and those are who this blog is concerned with.

Don’t rely on common sense

When it comes to love at the workplace, employers should have general and specific policies to regulate situations where (1) the relationship is between a manager and his or her subordinate; or, (2) the relationship takes a turn for the worse or is not of a mutual nature.

What can we possibly mean by that?

A Code of Conduct policy, for example, should:

  • Say that romantic relationships must not affect the work environment or productivity;
  • Prohibit a superior / subordinate relationship; and,
  • Provide disciplinary consequences for violations.

A Harassment policy should include fundamentals such as:

  • A clear definition of what constitutes harassment;
  • A clear complaint process;
  • A fair and, where possible, confidential investigation process; and,
  • A fair and final outcome mechanism.

Computer, Internet, and Social Media policies should, at a minimum, prohibit any form of harassment by way of email, telephone, texting or social media and should warn employees that things said and done after hours and off premises about co-workers and the employer may attract discipline.

The Last Word – Enforce your policies!

If you don’t enforce your policies, you’re condoning the behaviour and, as such, you may become part of the problem.  The general rule when it comes to policies is (1) be clear what you’re saying; (2) make sure everyone knows about the policy; and (3) enforce the policy when there is a violation.

While these tips won’t solve all potential issues relating workplace romances, they will assist in setting boundaries to protect against future harassment claims if things go bad!

The foregoing is intended for general information only. If you have any questions, or for a detailed list and background of our Labour & Employment practice group, please visit www.stewartmckelvey.com

A version of this post also appeared on Stewart McKelvey’s HRLaw Blog, February 11, 2014.

Lisa Gallivan and Alison Strachan are the editors of, and regular contributors to, Stewart McKelvey’s HRLaw blog.  HRLaw regularly blogs on current human resources issues and case law updates.  In addition, Stewart McKelvey has a vibrant twitter presence @SM_EmployerLaw where Lisa and Alison tweet daily on human resources issues. Lisa also works as a facilitator and can assist companies through policy development and organizational human resource challenges.