Don't Let Interoffice Relationships Lead to Lawsuits

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on January 17, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Do your company's policies on interoffice relationships effectively protect it from a nepotism or workplace harassment lawsuit? More importantly, how well do employees know and respect those policies?

When it comes to the workplace, nepotism and harassment are realities for any sufficiently large company. For example, employees mingle, they go to happy hour, maybe they go on some dates, and maybe those dates turn into a relationship.

The love story is cute, but the reality could be a bit problematic for your company. You're going to want to address that if you want to avoid a potential lawsuit.

Your first order of business is to look over those policies. Having a strong written statement in the employee code of conduct that personal relationships are discouraged is a good start.

Assuming the written policy is in good shape, you should make sure employees have read it and understand it. It's no good having a great policy if no one is reviewing it.

If employee relationships have previously been a problem for your company, it may be a good idea to set up some training for employees on what's appropriate. Even if the issue hasn't come up yet, a pre-emptive training could help get everyone on the same page.

While you can try discouraging interoffice relationships, you should also figure out what executives want to pursue as a company policy when these things inevitably happen.

Some offices don't allow company relationships at all. If employees want to start a relationship, one person has to find a new job.

But that's a fairly strict policy. Your company might embrace something more lenient.

It's important to have a set of procedures to document relationships and avoid problems if the relationship sours, or if it bothers other employees.

You might be the expert on the legal consequences of interoffice romance. But your human resources department probably knows more about how often romantic relationships come up and how problematic they are at your specific company.

Don't forget to get advice from HR, and other company departments that can help, if you have to create a new set of procedures. A great policy won't help if no one follows it.

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