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Dear Workforce How Do We Handle a Supervisor-Employee Romance?

How should I handle a romantic workplace relationship between a supervisor and an hourly employee?
March 5, 2004
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Related Topics: Harassment, Policies and Procedures, Dear Workforce
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Dear HR as Counselor:

First, a reminder that the information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Due to the legalities surrounding this issue, I would strongly encourage you to consult an attorney regarding the steps you decide to take and the policy you develop for the future.
This is a very tricky situation, regardless of whether you have a policy regarding workplace relationships. A solid policy can help, however. Among other things, at issue is balancing the rights of privacy of those involved, while protecting the company from charges of harassment and favoritism.
Assuming you don't yet have a policy, you should first meet with the supervisor and verify that the personal relationship exists. Explain the issues of potential favoritism, perceived or otherwise, and possible charges of harassment that can occur if the relationship terminates.
Verify with the supervisor that the relationship is consensual. Tell the supervisor that if the relationship terminates, he must report this to you immediately. Clearly state your position that displays of affection in public, long conversations, and frequent personal discussions are inappropriate at work.
Next, meet with the subordinate and ask if the relationship is consensual. Describe, in detail, how to report anything that may seem inappropriate or harassing. State the same expectations regarding termination of the relationship, displays of affection, etc.
Encourage both individuals to decide between themselves which of them will voluntarily transfer to another area, if possible. If this is not possible, arrange to have the subordinate report workplace concerns and issues to another supervisor and have this other supervisor take responsibility for the subordinate's performance reviews.
You might also consider having both parties sign an agreement stating that the relationship is consensual, that if the relationship terminates they will report it immediately, that they will report anything that seems inappropriate, and that they will decide between them which of the two will transfer to another area within a specified time period. Next, begin working on a policy that forbids close personal relationships between subordinates and supervisors, especially if it means one or both have to leave the company should this occur.
SOURCE: Kevin Herring, president, Ascent Management Consulting, Tucson, Arizona, March 7, 2003.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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Dear Workforce Newsletter
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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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