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How to Create a Love Contract for Dating in the Workplace

by Yvonne Nellums, PHR, SHRM-CP, on February 13, 2018
This week is Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! Significant others will be showering loved ones with gifts and many offices will be full of flowers, candy, and balloons. During this festive time, coworkers will have a peek into the private lives of many of their peers. But what happens if you find out you have a situation of two employees dating in the workplace... Now what do you do? 

Given the amount of time we spend in the workplace, for many this is a prime opportunity to meet someone you may choose to have a romantic interest in. It is not surprising that office romances are becoming more popular. You have the perfect opportunity to meet someone with similar interests and who understands the pressures of your job. You feel “safe” because you have already spent lots of time with this person. This environment is deemed more favorable than a bar or club because you have the opportunity to get to know someone on an intimate day-to-day level.

Office Romance Statistics
According to CareerBuilder’s 2016 Valentine’s Day survey, 37% of employees have dated a coworker, and 33% of those office romances have led to marriages. A national survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder found that 30% of these workers say they have dated someone who was at a higher level in the organization than they were.

Every company needs to consider having a policy in place regarding dating in the workplace. Without a clear policy, the company can open itself up to potential sexual harassment claims and legal consequences. There are various types of dating policies and your company should design one that suits your culture and protects you from liability. It is important to remember it doesn’t do any good to have the policy if you don’t consistently follow the guidelines.

Different Types of Dating Policies

No Dating Policy
There are several types of guidelines to consider when creating your dating policy. Many companies still maintain a “no dating in the workplace” policy. In most states, an employer can enact a policy that prohibits employees from dating one another. If you wish to implement this type of policy, I recommend you check your state and local laws for exceptions. The laws that are in place generally exist to limit what employers can prohibit regarding non-work activities. One of the drawbacks from banning dating in the workplace is it can decrease morale and could even result in losing employees who wish to date. On the plus side, this type of policy significantly decreases your liability to a sexual harassment claim.

Notification Policy, aka a Love Contract
Another option is to have a policy that requires employees to disclose whenever they enter into a consensual relationship. At that time, many employers choose to have the individuals sign a consensual relationship agreement, also known as a “love contract.” This agreement should state that both parties agree the relationship is consensual and should the relationship end, they will notify the company. Also, this conversation it is good time to have couples sign an acknowledgement stating they have read the harassment policy and will abide by the policy. By signing this acknowledgement, you help to limit the liability by having the parties agree they fully understand the company policy.

What to Include in a Policy When writing a workplace dating policy, it should include the following:
• Clearly defined procedures to follow if you enter into a relationship with a coworker
• Address if couples are allowed to work in the same area
• Detail the professionalism expected in the workplace – such as concerns about public displays of affection
• Employees should not share confidential information
• Should the relationship end, provide information on anti-retaliation
• Detail your policy on manager/subordinate relationships
• The policy should apply regardless of the sexual orientation of the parties involved
• Designate a person or department (such as Human Resources) for employees to contact if a relationship begins or ends

As with all policies, it is important to ensure your employees are aware of the policy and you apply it fairly and consistently. The policy is only as good as the enforcement behind it. Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone, and best of luck to you with navigating employee relationships.

If you need assistance writing a love contract, we would be happy to assist you! Give us a call at any one of our locations or leave us a message to get started.
Yvonne Nellums, PHR, SHRM-CP

Certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Society of Human Resources – Certified Professional (SHRM-CP), Yvonne serves as Director of Human Resources for LandrumHR. She has over 34 years of experience of comprehensive human resources management. She is responsible for a team of certified HR professionals who deliver human resources expertise and training to our client customers. Her experience in the field has been acquired through focus on labor and employee relations, employment law compliance, talent acquisition, and conflict resolution. Yvonne is a Past President of the Greater Pensacola Society for Human Resources Management, past Legislative Director on the HR Florida State Council of SHRM, and served in various leadership roles for SHRM.

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