You can hardly go online or flip on the TV these days without hearing the latest scandals about sexual harassment cases in the US. Entrepreneur reports that 34 percent of men and 35 percent of women admit to dating a co-worker, and these are just the employees that acknowledge an office romance. As an Illinois employer, you could be in a tough spot. If things go south, you could you face sexual harassment claims from either member of the couple. If they do not, there could be issues with other employees who are offended by outward displays of affection. To avoid potential problems, it is wise to develop an effective, efficient office policy regarding personal relationships. While you should discuss the specifics with an experienced Illinois employment attorney to avoid sexual harassment issues, here are a few best practices to consider.
Identify Prohibited Relationships
If you only establish one rule, it should be a ban on relationships between managers or supervisors and reporting employees. These scenarios create the highest potential for an expensive, protracted sexual harassment issue if the involved individuals have a falling out. Even when the subject employees do get along, the situation creates a distraction for other workers.
Make Disclosure Mandatory
Your company policy should require couples to come forward to appropriate personnel when the relationship reaches a certain point. This rule allows you to get involved and resolve any problematic circumstances before conflicts arise.
Communicate the Penalties for Violations of Company Policy
Employees must understand the implications if they violate the rules of your office romance policy, so they cannot claim ignorance if they are caught. While termination is a harsh sanction, it may be appropriate where the alternative is a costly sexual harassment lawsuit.
Develop a Contract for Romantically Involved Employees
Assuming they comply with other policies regarding office romances, you should require couples to sign a contract regarding their relationship in the context of their jobs. Include provisions that define expectations and protect each employee, as well as a statement indicating their agreement that the relationship is consensual. You should also attach a copy of your company sexual harassment policies, and point out that any disruption in the workplace is grounds for disciplinary action.
Kissing, touching, certain comments, and other public displays of affection can be offensive to other employees. The disruption affects productivity, morale, and job satisfaction, all of which impact your bottom line. Make it clear that this type of conduct is not allowed in the workplace.
Consult with a Chicago Employment Attorney to Avoid Sexual Harassment Issues
An effective office romance policy can help you avoid costly sexual harassment claims and disruptions in the workplace, so it is critical to identify your rules and communicate them to employees. For assistance with implementing a policy, please contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We can schedule a consultation at our Chicago office to discuss your goals and expectations, and answer your questions about best practices to avoid sexual harassment issues in Illinois.