This past weekend, many people exchanged cards, gifts, candy or flowers with their special “valentine.” While Valentine’s Day can be a day to celebrate love and romance, it also brings to mind employment concerns when there are personal relationships between employees at work.
Studies show that 46% of professionals believe that work friends are important to their overall happiness. Workplace relationships help workers feel connected, making employees more motivated and productive. But what happens when a casual relationships turns into something more?
Surveys have shown that nearly 40% of workers have dated someone they have worked with within the same company. From an employment perspective, a consensual romantic relationship between co-workers is not unlawful. However, problems can arise when a relationship goes bad.
Employees who are involved in a romantic relationship with one another should be sure to check their personnel policy to be sure their company does not prohibit co-workers from dating. Some businesses ban inter-work relationships of any kind. Other places ban relationships between employees and their supervisors. Others, still, don’t ban the relationships but require both employees to report the relationship and sign a document attesting to the fact that their relationship is consensual. That relationship is then often monitored to make sure one party isn’t getting special treatment from the other just for being in a relationship.
Regardless of the specific policies regarding romance in your workplace, sexual harassment and discrimination are illegal in all places of employment. Sexual harassment is defined in Maine as, “unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which threatens job security, working conditions, or advancement opportunities is considered sexual harassment.”
Generally speaking, romantic relationships between two co-workers are not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, according to a CareerBuilder survey, of the 38% of people surveyed who dated a coworker, nearly a third ended up getting married. However, office romance shouldn’t be done without substantial thought, especially if they involve a boss/subordinate relationship or relationships within the same department.
If you find yourself heading towards romance at work, it’s a good idea to step back, consider all of the various outcomes, and, if appropriate, discuss them with your potential partner. Be sure to check with human resources about the business policies regarding dating as well. In the end, we should all be able to find our true love. However, we may all like to keep our jobs as well. Tread these workplace romances with caution.
About the author: Karen Bilodeau is an attorney and partner at McTeague Higbee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 207-725-5581.