Dating in the Workplace

When I was in college on my way to becoming a business attorney Tulsa, I usually had three jobs at any given time. I had some odd hours because of class and what not so I took whatever job I could find. At one point, I worked at Applebee’s as a host. I remember there was a girl there who I ended up dating. Let’s call her Jessica (her name was not Jessica). I thought Jessica was beautiful. Like most relationships between teenagers, it ended not long after it started and we immaturely refused to speak to one another. It made long shifts awkward as we would do everything we could to avoid the other. Years later, we reconnected and of course laughed at our silly teenage behavior.

Things are a little different when you’re an adult. I mentioned in another article I once worked for a business where two folks who were married to other persons had an affair. One of the disgruntled ex’s posted a very nasty and negative review on the internet about the business and spilled the dirty details of the affair. It very considerably tarnished the business.

So what do you do when you arrive at your business and learn that two employees are dating? What about if you see them fighting with each other and sharing personal business in the workplace?

First, I as a business attorney Tulsa would make it very clear in your employee handbook that dating among employees is very heavily discouraged. I would not make it an automatically terminable offense, but I would use very stern language that makes crystal clear to any reader that this behavior is frowned upon.

Second, I recommend keeping a disclosure form with Human Resources regarding romantic relationships in the workplace. For the fans of The Office, you may recall the scene where Jim and Pam tell Toby they are finally together. Toby jealously avoids having them sign one of the “love forms” until it’s more official. If it’s just casual, he said it is not needed. Now a business attorney Tulsa will tell you that Toby’s advice in the show is generally good to follow. This is one of the few examples where his advice is not good. I would make it clear that any romantic interaction of any kind, whether casual or long-term, should be disclosed to Human Resources.

Third, in your disclosure documents that you create with your business attorney Tulsa, make it clear that the employees are agreeing to the following. First, they agree to keep work separate from their private lives. No public displays of affection or discussing their romantic relationship while at work. Second, they agree to not retaliate against the company in any way, shape, or form for any issue remotely associated with the relationship. Third, they pledge to behave maturely in the event that the relationship ends for whatever reason.

Fourth, I would have a separate document if one of the employees is a member of management. As an aside, I would make it clear that management shall not date any subordinate. That will be grounds for termination for the member of management. If the employee is in another department not related to the department where the manager works, that is within your discretion. If it was up to this business attorney Tulsa I would personally prohibit management from dating any subordinate, regardless of the department. If the relationship went south, the situation could get very sticky and potentially expose the company.

Fifth, in the disclosure agreement, I would make it clear that the employees are going to avoid any type of social media dispute if the relationship fails. Almost everyone has at least one social media account these days. Most of these social media sites invite you to disclose where you live, your age, and where you work. A potential client may be on your company’s page and scroll the employees to see who they are doing business with. The last thing you or this business attorney Tulsa wants is for a potential client to see an employee of your company behaving inappropriately via posting photographs or text that are inappropriate. This could have severe financial ramifications for your company. This is a big no no.

To be honest, any form of dating in the workplace is usually a recipe for disaster. We are all human, and no break up is ever clean. Now I have known people who get married after meeting in the workplace and all is well. Look at Jim and Pam for example. But seriously, in real life, I have seen couples meet at work, get married, and live happily ever after. But this is the exception. The norm usually involves scenarios like me and Jessica described above, supposed adults behaving like they are teenagers again.

As a business owner, your job is to protect the image of your company. One of the easiest ways for your image to get tarnished is employee immaturity. You can help combat this by having a clearly business attorney Tulsa written employee handbook that specifies employee-employee relationships are discouraged and management-employee relationships are strictly forbidden.

If you already have an employee handbook that is silent on the issue of employees dating, that is not a problem. This business attorney Tulsa can draft an addendum to your employee handbook that expressly incorporates the addendum by reference with the appropriate prohibition language. We can then have every employee sign an acknowledgement that they read the addendum, understood the addendum, and understand that the addendum is expressly incorporated to the employee handbook by reference.

If you have a concern about some potential employee commingling in a way that they should not commingle, please contact this business attorney Tulsa. Remember that the initial consultation is free. If we need to do an investigation, I would like to conduct a surprise visit to your business and meet with each of the allegedly dating employees separately. I will then prepare a report of my findings to you so you can make the most legally informed decision possible.

Employees dating is not the end of the world. Maybe they end up like Jim and Pam and stay together forever. But do not count on this. Chances are, it will end in disaster. Try to prevent this disaster from happening to protect your business by consulting a business attorney Tulsa.