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  • How Should Employers Handle Co-Worker Romance?

    Married couples or couples in long-term relationships often have interesting stories of how they met.  Some have known each other for a very long time, having gone to school together or having grown up next door to one another.  Still others may have met their future spouse through extended friendships – through a friend of a friend, for example.  And some relationships that culminate in marriage began with a blind date.

    It is also not uncommon to hear about couples who met at work.  This may not be surprising, since the workplace is a setting where individuals work and interact with each other on a regular basis.  But from the standpoint of employers, romantic relationships in the workplace present a delicate and complicated dilemma, especially since, in some cases, they could lead to allegations of sexual harassment.  A recent article in Business Management Daily addressed the various approaches different employers and companies take in dealing with workplace relationships.

    For example, in one case, two co-workers were married, and upon returning from their honeymoon, were called into their supervisor’s office.  They were told that per company policy, one of the two co-workers would have to resign.  The female employee, who held a subordinate position to her husband at the store, agreed to resign.  She then sued her employer claiming race discrimination, since three white couples who were married and worked at the store were allowed to continue working there after their weddings.  The store argued that the three couples worked in different divisions, and that none of the spouses supervised the other.  In this case, the employee who was forced to resign worked in the same division and was supervised by her husband.  Since the store did not have any open positions in another division into which the female employee could be transferred, the court found in favor of the store and upheld the company’s policy.

    The Business Management Daily article goes on to recommend various policies employers and companies can put in place to manage workplace relationships.  First, companies can ban relationships between supervisors and their subordinates, since the power imbalance and potential for coercion in such relationships can lead to sexual harassment.  Second, an employer should advise all employees of the company’s policies and advise them of the consequences of violating them.  Third, an employer should advise its employees of what it considers to be acceptable and unacceptable conduct at work.  Finally, an employer could also ask its employees to sign waivers which absolve the employer of any liability for the harm that may result from a workplace relationship.

    Sexual harassment can have serious and long-lasting consequences for a victim and offender.  If you are involved in allegations of sexual harassment, whether as a victim or offender, you should contact a sexual harassment lawyer in Los Angeles right away.  An experienced sexual harassment lawyer in Los Angeles can advise you of your legal options based on the facts of your case and the governing laws.  A sexual harassment lawyer in Los Angeles can help you achieve a fair and satisfactory outcome and put this episode behind you.