Offices Romances

Flirting With Office Disaster? Minimize The Risk Of Office Romances

Minimize the risks associated with office romances; here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Every year around Valentine’s Day, offices across Arizona smell of freshly-delivered flowers and Belgian chocolates. But what if the person sending the flowers and chocolates works with you?

It’s not as uncommon as we’d like to think. In fact, an estimated 40 percent of U.S. workers have admitted to dating fellow employees — and another 40 percent would consider doing so now or in the future.

However romantic, taboo or thrilling it may seem, love in the workplace can be a nightmare for human resources executives and managers. First, it is hard to monitor. Second, it can make other employees uncomfortable – and jealous. Third, chances are the romance will end, and the office will suffer from lost productivity, decreased morale, increased gossip and more.

And perhaps most importantly, in extreme cases, the effects of a workplace romance gone wrong can lead to potential harassment and/or retaliation claims.

Some companies proactively work to prevent relationships in the workplace by instituting non-fraternization policies. It then becomes human resources’ responsibility to communicate the policy — and the consequences.

Most companies, however, are smart to take less extreme steps to minimize the risks associated with office romances. These include:

  • Updating the company’s harassment policy
  • Implementing a modified non-fraternization policy specifically forbidding dating among supervisors and subordinates as such relationships may give appearance of favoritism when it comes to promotions, raises, training, assignments and other job enhancements
  • Using “love contracts”

Love contracts are very specific. These written and signed documents act as confirmation that two employees’ romantic relationship is voluntary and that they both understand and know how to use their employer’s policies that forbid harassment in the workplace and provide mechanisms for reporting and solving problems. In many cases, love contracts have been especially effective in protecting the company if/when the relationship turns sour.

Though love contracts are not perfect — and not always popular — they do serve a significant purpose when it comes to preventing real problems. These contracts remind people that at one point the relationship they were in was welcomed and that they knew the relationship could be ended without adverse job consequences.

For more information about minimizing the risk of office romances, please visit or contact Shayna at (602) 281-3406.

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Shayna Balch

About Shayna Balch

Shayna H. Balch is an associate at Fisher & Phillips LLP in Phoenix where she handles matters across all facets of labor and employment law, including employment discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, restrictive covenants, preventive counseling, employee training, personnel policies and employment agreements. She is also an incoming member of the Valley of the Sun Human Resources Board of Directors in 2012 and currently serves as chairperson of the organization’s Legislative Action Committee, where she is focused on educating members about current and pending legislative changes as well as influencing the legislative process by bringing the voice of human resource professionals to lawmakers. For more information, please visit