Are company anti-dating policies doing more harm than good?

Posted in Sexual Harassment on February 19, 2016

Many companies frown on romantic relationships in the workplace, and often for good reasons. Two employees may not have any difficulty while they are in the relationship, but what happens if or when it ends? One partner’s hostile behavior toward the other could quickly turn into sexual harassment.

So should companies have ( blanket policies against inter-office dating and romance? Not necessarily – at least not when it comes to dating between employees who hold equal rank within the organization. Relationships happen, whether or not they are company approved, and banning inter-office dating often just leads to secrecy. If employees do date and then break up, they still deserve to be protected from sexual harassment and other threatening behavior. No one should be afraid to report harassment for fear of losing their own job, which is often what happens when coworkers have broken the company’s dating policies.

The best solution to the problem may be for companies to create policies that recognize relationships while preventing the potential for harassment in the first place. Many companies allow inter-office relationships if those relationships are disclosed to an HR representative. Each person in the relationship is reminded of the company’s anti-harassment policies and expected to abide by them. That way, if and when the couple ever breaks up, both employees will not be held equally responsible if one decides to harass the other.

Sexual harassment policies are not just about limiting company liability when certain employees behave inappropriately. Companies should care when harassment occurs because it is poisonous to workplace morale and workplace productivity. Relationships are going to happen, and when they do, workers need to retain their workplace protections.

If you have been sexually harassed at work and aren’t sure what you can do about it, please seek help from an experienced sexual harassment attorney.