You might find it hard to believe at first, but one out of every three members of your crew could currently be involved in a workplace romance.
That’s the upshot of a recent survey of 550 U.S. employees conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The percentage of folks reporting a workplace romance – 33% – is also a 6% jump in the number of workers who acknowledged a relationship in a similar study conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These workplace trysts could have significant legal consequences for your and your employer, especially when you consider that 77% of those involved in a workplace romance fail to disclose it to their employer, according to the SHRM study.
When coworkers are romantically linked, you’re unlikely to face a costly lawsuit as long as the relationship continues, but things could take a dramatic turn for the worse should the couple break up, because that’s when claims of sexual harassment and a hostile workplace are more likely to be made.
While it might be tempting to forbid staff members from dating each other, that’s probably not a good idea. Research has shown that people working together are going to engage in romantic relationships. By outlawing them, you increase the chances they’ll happen behind your back, which you don’t want.
One option: Ask people dating each other to sign a “love contract” to formally acknowledge the romance and to lay out the rules for acceptable behavior. Talk to your HR manager for more guidance on love contracts.
The love contract could be a valuable tool in court should the couple later break up and one of them say he or she was being sexually harassed; the contract can help prove the romance was consensual. The contract can also help demonstrate exactly when the relationship started.
(From the Aug. 12, 2022, issue of HR Managers Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)