Romance at Work: the risks and Solutions

Flowers, chocolate, and a strong-worded legal complaint: these are all signs of romance at Work. While many people find their soulmate on the job, employers know that the affair is complicated. Employers may face gossip, lover’s quarrels, and distracted employees if romance is in the workplace. This can lead to workplace violence, sexual harassment, retaliation, and favoritism. This list might make you feel weak for the wrong reasons.

It may not be realistic for an employer to outright ban dating at Work. Employers may decide to reduce risk by implementing romantic policies and procedures.

Workplace romances – Potential dangers for employers

Sexual harassment claims

Sexual harassment allegations often stem from office romances between supervisors and subordinates. However, colleagues can also make claims when an employee feels unappreciated or if a relationship ends. Employees can claim they have been poorly treated after completing a romantic relationship or refusing to accept unwanted advances by a supervisory suitor. This is especially true if the employee has later been terminated or overlooked for promotion. If one coworker pursues the other after a relationship ends, it can lead to harassment allegations.

Even if a relationship is mutually agreed upon, public displays can create a hostile environment for coworkers and third parties.


If an employee is treated negatively after reporting unwanted romantic advances or harassing conduct, they may claim that retaliation was the reason for their treatment. Employees can also claim they were afraid of retaliation or that their employer did not take their complaints seriously.


Relationships between subordinates and supervisors can lead to allegations of sexual favoritism. Romantic partners may feel that they receive special treatment because of their relationship and that romance is required for employment. Some employees may believe the supervisor’s lover is getting an unfair advantage.

Workplace violence

Sour relationships or unreturned love can lead to workplace violence in extreme situations. In addition to the cost of human life, employers may be liable if they fail to recognize or address the risks of violence.

Reduce the risk of workplace romance.

Employers have many options, including banning all romantic relationships.

The romance of the bar between subordinates and supervisors

Relationships between supervisors and subordinates are some of the most vulnerable to sexual harassment allegations. These relationships can be managed much more efficiently with a relationship ban than a dating ban imposed on the entire workforce. A romance policy that addresses supervisor-subordinate relationships can be an effective way to communicate employer expectations.

Use a love contract.

Love Contract is a contract between two employees that states their relationship as consensual. It does not include sexual harassment. Love contracts also remind dating employees of the importance of professional conduct. This tool can be helpful for employers to reduce liability by ensuring that known relationships are consensual, rooting out problematic behavior, and maintaining a comfortable work environment.

Training and reporting on sexual harassment

Some states now require Sexual Harassment Training Programs, which can help minimize liability. An anonymous reporting channel, for example, can also help employers mitigate risk. They will be able to identify previously unknown illegal behavior and reduce employee complaints that they were scared to report harassment.

Tell employees that their communications will be monitored.

In the workplace, harassment is often committed via digital communication, which can be done via an employer’s phone, computer, or network. This concern is a high priority because so many people will work remotely during this pandemic. Communication monitoring policies and regular reminders that employees’ communications are being monitored can effectively detect technology misuse.

When things go wrong in a romance at Work

The EEOC or courts will examine the preventative policies and measures an employer has put in place and if they were followed. Employers who take vital preventative steps and follow through with diligent follow-up are better positioned to defend themselves. Practical Law’s tools can help employers take preventive measures, address problems before they become lawsuits, and implement sexual harassment prevention and romance policies. Find out how practical Law can help employers deal with workplace romance.

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