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Guidelines for Office Relationships

October 13, 1998
Related Topics: Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Policies and Procedures, Featured Article
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Guidelines for Office Relationships:
  • Employers should have written policies on dating and family relationships in the workplace to promote uniform treatment of all employees and reduce the likelihood of claims of discrimination or favoritism. Supervisors should hold question-and-answer sessions with employees upon initiation of the policies to avoid any misunderstandings. All new employees should receive the policy upon being hired and should be given the opportunity to ask questions.
  • Employers generally cannot discriminate based on marital status, so workplace rules should apply to close relationships between coworkers, whether married or not.
  • Employers should require employees who are in a close personal relationship to report the relationship if the employees work together as part of their jobs. Supervisors should treat this information as confidential.
  • Employers should generally prohibit employees in a close personal relationship from working in supervisor/subordinate roles. If a transfer or change in responsibility is not feasible, other supervisors should handle or participate in performance reviews of the subordinate employee. It should be clearly stated that the subordinate employee has the option of going to the most senior supervisor to discuss any workplace issue.
  • Employers may require that employees in a close personal relationship refrain from public displays of affection or excessive conversation.
  • Workplace relationships rules should apply to all employees, even senior executives.
  • Guidelines and policies regarding dating and close relationships in the workplace need legal review to ensure compliance with federal, state and local laws.

Source: Michael D. Karpeles, partner and head of the Chicago-based employment law group of Goldberg, Kohn, Bell, Black, Rosenbloom and Moritz, Ltd.

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