Relationships in the Workplace

We are all human, even this business attorney Tulsa. While I have only been on this earth for 32 years, I have seen my fair share of workplace scandals. From after parties where married folks end up with someone other than their spouse to broken marriages due to workplace relationships that started with two well-intentioned individuals, I have seen it all. These situations can get very sticky depending on the nature and extent of the circumstances involved.

There are some basic things you should understand, and consult a business attorney Tulsa, regarding how to generally approach workplace relationships.

The first and most basic approach I recommend is to generally prohibit workplace relationships. In your business attorney Tulsa written employee handbook, I would have very strong language discouraging workplace relationships. They are just sticky. Imagine your own personal relationships. Humans fight, raise their voices, and say things they regret. Imagine such a scene playing out as a potential customer walks in. First impressions are hard to take back. Allowing workplace relationships to flourish could ultimately impact your pocketbook and harm your business.

The second safety net I recommend is a workplace disclosure form to Human Resources. You may be Human Resources. Let this business attorney Tulsa tell you that’s fine! If you ever watch the television show The Office, you may recall in the second season when Michael and Jan go to the Christmas party hosted by Chief Financial Officer David Wallace. While in the driveway, Jan hands Michael a relationship disclosure form. Michael calls it a “love contract.” Jan, annoyed at Michael’s constant antics, responds and says, “You realize this is a legal document saying that you cannot sue the company in the event our relationship actually or in your opinion fails?” Michael responds, very lovingly, “Jan, you don’t need to say anything. This love agreement says everything.” He then signs his name and puts a heart over the “i” in Michael. Admittedly, a very silly show that illustrates a very powerful point. Jan, Michael’s then supervisor, signed an agreement and submitted it to her boss David Wallace letting David know that she and Michael were involved romantically. A relationship disclosure form is a very powerful document that can nearly insulate your company from exposure. A well-drafted disclosure form will significantly enhance your business from any fallout that may follow a failed workplace romantic relationship.

The second safety net I recommend is always have a third party involved if any professional tasks occur between the parties in a relationship and consult a business attorney Tulsa. Returning to The Office, there is an episode later in the series where Roy, an employee in the warehouse, is fired for attempting to attack Jim. Roy found out Jim kissed Pam, and decides to take action. After Roy is fired, Darryl, Foreman of the warehouse, attempts to negotiate with Michael for an increase in salary. The amount Darryl wants is more than Michael wants. Darryl then convinces Michael to contact his boss Jan and request an increase in compensation. Jan, who is almost always professional, tells Michael that his dreaded HR representative Toby must be present given Jan and Michael’s relationship. In the scene where Michael asks for a salary increase, the negotiations are not going well so Michael threatens to withhold sex from Jan. Toby then starts taking notes for what he believes will be an inevitable deposition. It is one of my favorite episodes that illustrates a powerful point. If a couple works at your business, consult your business attorney Tulsa , and especially if one of them has any supervisory authority over the other, then always have a neutral, third person present for any professional task.This way if there is fallout then you can present the independent witness for any testimony required.

The third safety net I recommend as a business attorney Tulsa is to prevent any public displays of affection at work. Throughout the course of The Office, there is countless displays of public affection. When Jim and Pam finally start dating each other in season four, Toby gets jealous and decides to circulate a memorandum to the other members of The Office. The memorandum is a “friendly reminder” that there is an office policy preventing public displays of affection. Michael, always thinking that Toby is out to get him, confronts Toby to alert him that whatever he saw between Michael and another lady was after hours and consensual. Toby confesses he received a complaint about Jim and Pam. The rest of the office did not know that the two were dating. This was the scene where the world finally got what they wanted: Jim and Pam as an official couple. Toby’s memorandum is a good reminder that physical contact should be limited to professional handshakes. Nothing more. Even if couples are together, it is not a good idea to allow public displays of affection. If employees are caught engaging in public displays of affection on the premises, you may want to remind them that if you can see what they are doing then so can other customers.

Summarily, the television show The Office is classified under the genre comedy for a good reason. First, it’s hilarious. But more importantly it is a show that exaggerates (sometimes) the situations we face on a daily basis. As a business owner and a business attorney Tulsa, you can learn a substantial amount from watching our favorite actors and actresses stumble through some pretty awkward situations.

If you do not have an employee handbook, contact the RC Law Group and one of our business attorney Tulsa can draft one on your behalf. If you have an employee handbook but are missing any of the documents described above, contact the RC Law Group. The last thing you want to deal with as a business owner is a wrongful termination or harassment lawsuit because a disgruntled, former employee decided to file suit over a failed romantic relationship. It will cost you thousands of dollars to defend, substantially suck an enormous amount of time away from your business, and do nothing to promote and flourish your business. If anything, it would harm your profit stream considerably. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let’s make sure you and your business attorney Tulsa prevent this together.