With love in the air this week, businesses might be considering a "no fraternization" policy for the workplace.
The Carl Greene case a few years back may ring a bell for Philadelphia business owners. Greene was found to be a "serial sexual harasser" who allegedly quickly promoted a woman and later demoted her after he found out she was dating another employee.
To avoid workplace romance issues like Greene's, it might be best to have a "no fraternization" policy in place.
What To Consider In Your Policy
In creating a "no fraternization" policy, here are some things to consider:
- Prohibit relationships between supervisors and subordinates. Relationships between a boss and his or her underling can easily turn into a sexual harassment lawsuit. Subordinates may sue the company if their bosses suggest that they will be promoted in return for sexual favors. Alternatively, the boss could make sexual comments or jokes that turn the office into a hostile work environment.
- Avoid a blanket ban on office romance. While it might seem easy to banish all office romance, doing so could violate the law. In Pennsylvania, it's illegal to discriminate based on familial status. This status is extended to married couples. So refusing to hire a married couple because you don't want their marriage to affect the workplace could be considered illegal.
- Enforce "consensual relationship agreements". Consensual relationship agreements are binding agreements made between an office romantic couple and management. The agreement prevents the couple from allowing their relationship to disrupt the workplace and makes it clear that both are in a consensual and voluntary relationship. These agreements can help deter potential sexual harassment lawsuits.
Pros and Cons
Like everything else, there are pros and cons to having a no fraternization policy at work. On one hand, the policy could keep an employer out of the courthouse because his or her employees have clear rules on what is acceptable in the workplace.
These policies can also make the office more tolerable by freeing management from a great deal of he-said-she-said drama between co-workers. On the other hand, "no fraternization" policies could lead to lawsuits if employees feel like the rules discriminate against their genders or restrict too much of their private lives.
If you decide that a "no fraternization policy" will work for your business, contact an employment law attorney in Philadelphia to discuss your options in moving forward.