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It’s complicated: Navigating workplace relationships

A survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that roughly one-third of people were involved in a romantic relationship last year.

Finding love at work is certainly not uncommon, but these relationships can still trigger legal and professional conflicts.

Issues to consider as an employee

If you are in or thinking about entering a relationship with someone you work with, that relationship could affect more than you two. Your employer, colleagues and the legal system could also be involved under certain circumstances.

Violating workplace policies

In many cases, people face penalties like termination or reassignment if they violate workplace policies restricting workplace relationships.

A survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that roughly one-third of people were involved in a romantic relationship with a coworker last year.

Finding love at work is certainly not uncommon, but these relationships can still trigger legal and professional conflicts for both employers and employees.

Issues to consider as an employee

If you are in or are thinking about entering into a relationship with someone you work with, you should be aware of how that relationship could affect your work environment. Under certain circumstances, intimate details about your relationship could be exposed to your employer, your colleagues, and even the public at large if a claim is filed through the legal system

Violating workplace policies

Employees should familiarize themselves with their employers’ workplace policies before entering into relationships with coworkers. Some employers place restrictions or limitations on intra-office relationships, such as between managers and direct reports, due to concerns that subordinates may feel pressured to give in to a supervisor’s advances.

Even consenting coworkers who become romantically involved may face penalties up to and including termination or reassignment if their relationship violates company policy.

Other employers may permit employees to date as long as they disclose the relationship to management. Failing to disclose a relationship could lead to unnecessary troubles, as with the former chief executive of CNN who recently resigned after revealing that he had hidden his relationship with another executive at the media giant.

Affecting workplace environment

Relationships at work can affect the workplace environment, not only for the people in the relationship but also for the coworkers around them. If the relationship is going well, others may feel uncomfortable around displays of affection or worry about favoritism. Should the relationship start to sour, the workplace may feel tense and awkward if the people who were dating are now fighting or avoiding one another.  These dynamics can cause low morale, distractions, and division amongst employees which may reduce employee satisfaction and productivity.

When legal issues arise

On top of these business-specific scenarios, there are also situations where a workplace relationship could lead to legal issues.

Some examples include:

There could be harsh legal penalties for people who break the law in cases involving these claims, including fines, financial damages, or even criminal charges and jail time.

If you have concerns regarding a workplace romance, legal guidance may help protect your relationship and your career.

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