Human Interest

love contracts, office romances

Employers Ask Dating Employees to Sign “Love Contracts”

February 13, 2009 04:15 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As office romances become more prevalent, employees are trying to prevent legal repercussions by having both parties sign legal agreements.

Falling in Love? Read the Terms and Conditions and Sign Here

Office relationships have become increasingly common, and while the need for secrecy has dissipated somewhat, it’s been replaced with pre-emptive legal involvement on the part of the company. Now, employees who find themselves falling for a co-worker may be asked to sign a “love contract” that confirms the relationship is consensual. These contracts are designed to avoid big lawsuits down the line, the Kansas City Star reports.

Employees must also agree to keep work and romance separate while they’re at the office. As employment lawyer Stephen Tedesco told ABC News, the contract “defines how they are going to conduct themselves in the workplace going forward.”

Workplace romances are common: polled more than 8,000 people in November and found that 40 percent of them had engaged in an office romance. This usually doesn’t present any complications if the two parties work on the same level. But problems can arise with office romances when they involve two people who are not at the same level. If a boss is dating an employee, it becomes necessary to distinguish between sexual harassment and a mutually agreeable relationship. The new contracts ensure that companies are not responsible for the behavior that occurs within the context of the relationship.

A 2009 Vault Office Romance Survey found that 65 percent of those polled worked for companies that still had no policy about office romance. Only nine percent reported leaving a job because of company rules forbidding the relationship. Many people did report that the current recession was deterring them from engaging in office romance, and more than half of people in a relationship where one partner was laid off reported ending the relationship soon after.

Related Topic: High-level office romance

The relationship between World Bank head Paul Wolfowitz and Shaha Riza, an employee of the World Bank, drew the public’s attention to the prevalence of office romance. The Financial Times noted that the media was particularly eager to turn the relationship into something illicit—or at least, a topic for comedy.

The BBC reports that Wolfowitz was transparent about his relationship when he was named head of the World Bank in 2005. He worked extensively with lawyers to ensure there would be no conflict of interest, and arranged for Riza to be transferred to the State Department. Nevertheless, Wolfowitz was eventually accused of misconduct relating to the transfer, and he resigned from the World Bank in 2007.

The Financial Times noted that even when relationships are not scandalous, it is important for both parties to tread cautiously, especially if one of them is in a supervising position. The writer argues that given the current prevalence of women in the workforce, it is essential for companies to have clearly defined policies regarding office romance.

Reference: Navigating the office romance

Plenty of people meet future spouses at work, but others’ attempts at office dating can prove disastrous. Whether you’re headed for the altar or hoping to get lucky at happy hour, proceeding with discretion and a certain level of maturity never hurts. Pick up a few tips for best practices in “The Way To Work: Navigating the Office Romance.” Avoid basic mistakes, take the necessary precautions, prepare for whatever comes and let the sparks fly.

If you’re like one of the people in the survey who wished they didn’t have to date at the office but can’t figure out another way to meet people, then you might want to try the findingDulcinea Dating Web Guide to help you look beyond the cubicle.

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