Most people have seen the critically acclaimed television series, The Office, featuring the workplace romance of Pam and Jim. While their happily-ever-after worked out at Dunder Mifflin, that doesn’t mean you should be using a fictional relationship as your HR excuse. Workplace relationships are common–but there are a few things employees need to know when they enter into one.
Employee Perspectives on Workplace Romances
In a 2019 report by CNBC, office workers were asked about their experience with and views on workplace relationships. Findings illustrated that one-third of employees in America have found love in the workplace, but that number is actually down from years past.
The reasoning for this decline? Fear of future sexual harassment claims. In a poll by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), these claims of sexual harassment were a fifth of the responses. The other leading reasons for straying away from workplace romance includes:
- A lack of interest (56 percent)
- Workplace relationships are unprofessional (33 percent)
- Concerns about employer reactions (25 percent)
- Fears of being gossiped about (22 percent.)
Because the regulations of workplace romance vary from company to company, many HR professionals and employers stick to some basic rules on what is acceptable and unacceptable in workplace romances.
How Employers May Handle Workplace Relationships
While there are no federal or state laws prohibiting workplace love, guidelines tend to go from company to company to ensure that future complications do not arise should the romance go sour.
Polls of office relationships have shown that some 11% of workers report complications from their employer following a workplace relationship. Typically though, a couple may be separated into different departments or have to undergo counseling to keep company interests intact.
The real problems emerge when you date someone you report to, or who reports to you. Because superiors and subordinates dating can lead to issues if the relationship shouldn’t work out, it can also leave other employees feeling like nepotism is occurring in the workplace, which can lead to more complications.
Because of this, most companies will have some policy in place against relationships such as this; and some may even outright ban romances between employees of significantly different rank.
Remember, these policies are made to protect employers, not necessarily the employees. These policies are often used to alleviate responsibility–the logic? The employees disobeyed company policy and conduct, the company had the policy in place, and bears no responsibility in the matter–or at least that is the hope.
Workplace romance, though not illegal, may not always be the best course of action–especially when the people involved work at different levels in the company.
However, if you have been involved in a workplace relationship and now are having complications at work, you may have a case, depending on employer policies.
The New York employment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam can review your company policies to see what grounds you have for protections. Contact us today to discuss your case.