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Taking the pulse about workplace romance on Valentine's Day

On Valentine's Day, life might be just a box of chocolates - but be careful not to chip your tooth. Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Blog warns us about legal perils on Valentine's Day - a day that he says "brings out the the inner sexual harasser in far too many instances." He recounts a series of workplace valentine's gestures or actions that led not to romance but to the courtroom.

It is precisely such potential peril that leads us to view the whole business of "work spouses" with such a jaundiced eye. Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall St Journal Work & Family blog posts about co-workers acknowledging their work spouses on Cupid's Day. It's not that we don't think that strong bonds in the workplace aren't something to be valued and acknowledged. But we question framing them with trappings that have been traditionally associated with romance.

Despite the perils, workplace romance seems to be thriving. A recent CareerBuilder survey seems to indicate that the taboo against dating coworkers may be breaking down. "Approximately 40 percent of workers say they have dated someone they worked with over their career; 18 percent report dating co-workers at least twice in their career. Additionally, 30 percent report they went on to marry a person they dated in the office."

Is there anything an employer to do to limit liability? Some suggest love contracts, a form of consensual relationship agreements, as a way to minimize the employer's exposure. (We posted about these previously - see: "Love contracts" may limit employer liability for office romance). Mark Toth of the Manpower Employment Blog polled his readers about whether such "contracts" are a good idea or not and found his readers split. As for his own opinion, he has no love for love contracts.

Related:
EEOC - Sexual Harassment; see Prohibited Practices
Sexual Harassment Training: A Must-Do for Employers


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