If you've not yet watched episode 8 (Man City) of the current second season of Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso and you don't want to be spoiled, now would be a good time to click the back button on your browser or close your email. Good? Okay. No grumbling; you've been warned.
Rebecca: No. Sam. We can't... I'm your boss. No. No. You are way too young. I mean, you're what, like, 24?Sam: I'm... I'm 21.Rebecca: Oh, my God. I'm a pedophile. I feel... I've groomed you. All these messages. I was grooming you!Sam: You didn't groom me, okay? We didn't know who we were.Rebecca: Okay, but... but now we do, and this is not happening.
- Conflicts of interest.
- Extortion and blackmail attempts.
- Uncomfortable conversations with HR and company attorneys explaining your love life.
- Have to describe your employee’s private affairs in a deposition or, worse, to a jury.
- Office gossip.
- The loss of respect from co-workers and management.
- Harassment and retaliation lawsuits when someone other than an employee's paramour gets passed over for a promotion, fired, or otherwise thinks you are playing favorites.
- Harassment or retaliation lawsuits by a jilted partner when the relationship goes south.
The question, then, isn't whether these relationships are illegal (they're not), but how much risk you, as an employer, want to assume in the event a relationships sours, or other employees feels shunned or mistreated as a result. Your options?
- Ban them outright?
- Ban them only between a manager/supervisor and his/her subordinate?
- Permit them with a signed agreement (the "love contract")?
- Do nothing and permit them across the board?
Otherwise, I'm not here to tell you that you should forbid employees from dating each other. Far from it. The heart is going to go where the heart wants to go. In other words, if your employees want to date, they will — with or without a policy forbidding their relationships and dalliances. Instead, look at workplace romances as an opportunity to educate your employees about the ins and outs of your harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policies. Train your employees about what is and is not appropriate (and inappropriate) workplace conduct between the sexes. Focusing on conduct (and misconduct) instead of the relationships will provide your employees the necessary tools to avoid the types of problems that can arise, and which, in turn, will help your organization avoid the litigation that those problems often cause.