#Nextchat: Romance, Lust and Litigation in the Workplace

 

 

There was a time when it was quite common for individuals to find their spouses (or partners) in the workplace. Indeed, this still happens today, although perhaps less so.

However, we know that there are risks if someone with power dates or attempts to date someone over whom he or she has direct or indirect supervisory or institutional power. There are risks everywhere you turn: Let’s just focus for a moment narrowly on a supervisor asking a subordinate for a date:

  • Supervisor asks a subordinate for a date. Subordinate says “No.” Supervisor asks again. Problem.
  • Supervisor asks a subordinate for a date. Subordinate says “I’m busy.” Subordinate means “I would rather die.” Supervisor hears “Ask me again.” Supervisor asks again. Problem.
  • Supervisor asks a subordinate for a date. Subordinate says “No.” Supervisor does not ask again. However, the subordinate is subject to an adverse action by the supervisor, which is perceived as retaliation. Problem.
  • Supervisor asks a subordinate for a date. Subordinate says “Yes.” They fall in love until they hate each other. Subordinate then claims pressure to get involved or retaliation after getting out. Problem.
  • Supervisor asks a subordinate for a date. Subordinate says “Yes.” They fall in love. But all their loving is making others uncomfortable. Problem.

We know from the #MeToo movement that more than a few men with power have abused their power in the pursuit of intimate relationships. So now is a good time for employers to revisit their policies—or to consider developing policies—to deal with intimate relationships where there is a power differential.

Employers need to protect employees from harm (and, in doing so, minimize their legal risk). But employers also cannot ignore reality: Love happens in workplace settings.

The problem is clear. What may be less clear is what employers should do in response. That’s why we need to chat!

Please join @weknownext on March 7 at 3 p.m. ET for #Nextchat with special guest Jonathan A. Segal (@Jonathan_HR_Law). As a columnist for HR Magazine and an official SHRM Blogger, Jonathan has written extensively on the issue of workplace romance.

In what we expect to be a lively and fun chat, we will discuss the following issues:

Q1. What are the legal risks associated with romantic relationships in the workplace?

Q2. How can workplace relationships where there is a power differential (such as supervisory-subordinate) affect other employees, teams and workplace culture?

Q3. What are the perils of dating your peers in the workplace? 

Q4. What are the risks in romantic relationships between employees and clients/customers?

Q5. Is it practical to prohibit workplace relationships where there is a power differential (such as supervisory-subordinate)? Why or why not?

Q6. What are some of the potential risks of prohibiting intimate relationships where there is a power differential (such as supervisory-subordinate)?

Q7. Are there alternatives to prohibitions that may minimize potential for harm and associated legal risks of work-related romantic relationships?

Q8. What should an HR professional do if he or she becomes involved with an employee of the organization?

 

 

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.
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