Valentine’s Day may be all chocolate and roses, but when it comes to office romances, things aren’t always that sweet.

And while the number of employees dating co-workers is the lowest it’s been in ten years, CareerBuilder’s annual Valentine’s Day survey still found that 36% of employees have been in an office relationship.

Of that group, the survey found:

  • 22% of workers have dated their boss
  • 35% have dated co-workers two or more times in their careers
  • 24% were in a relationship with a married colleague
  • 41% had to keep their romance a secret, and
  • 6% of workers left their job when a relationship went south.

Though not every office romance ends badly (31% of dating co-workers ended up getting married), there are many potential complications when you get romantically involved at work.

What could go wrong?

There are some obvious reasons not to date co-workers, such as the awkwardness of having to work together after breaking up. But lawyer and Ohio Employer’s Law Blog founder Jon Hyman points out a lot of lesser known and potentially legal pitfalls you may not even think about:

  • conflicts of interest
  • extortion and blackmail attempts
  • conversations between employees and HR about personal, romantic details
  • having to explain relationship details in a courtroom
  • office gossip
  • love contracts
  • loss of respect from co-workers and management
  • facing termination for hiding a relationship
  • harassment and retaliation lawsuits if a boss’s romantic partner gets special treatment, and
  • harassment and retaliation lawsuits by an upset employee when a relationship ends badly.

What should employers do?

Permitting office relationships always opens the door to possible harassment or retaliation lawsuits, but since these romances aren’t illegal, employers have to decide which route they want to take in dealing with them.

A few options are:

  • banning office relationships completely
  • banning relationships between superiors and subordinates
  • allow relationships if both parties sign an agreement not to file a lawsuit against the company (aka a “love contract”), or
  • permit any and all types of office romances.

No matter what you decide, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on any love birds in the office.



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