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Whether you decide to institute love contracts or not, it's crucial to discuss office romance with your managers and what they should do and not do about it. Good times to cover this subject are during sexual harassment training and management development training.
"HR needs to train supervisors about why [dating subordinates] is inappropriate," says Lynn D. Lieber, an employment law attorney and founder and CEO of Workplace Answers, a San Francisco-based provider of legal compliance education via the Internet. "Tell supervisors to never date subordinates. If they do, they should bring it to the company's attention as soon as possible. You shouldn't try to transfer the person or be quiet about it. Supervisors don't understand they are agents of the employer. When they act, it is as if the employer is acting."
Also, managers need to be instructed how to sensitively address interoffice romance between dating subordinates. The manager should remind the couple of the company's sexual harassment and no-fraternization policies, as well as the expectation of lack of privacy and what is inappropriate workplace behavior. Finally, managers should be told to inform HR of any interoffice romances.
"HR managers understand privacy concerns and can manage information on a need-to-know basis, as they do with so many other private matters involving employees. Disclosure makes 'bad things' less likely to happen. HR functions as the gatekeeper to make sure the best decisions are being made for the right reasons," says Ann Margaret Pointer, a labor and employment attorney with Fisher & Phillips LLP in Atlanta.
Kathryn Tyler, M.A., is a freelance writer and former HR generalist and trainer in Wixom, Mich., who has written business-related articles for the last 13 years. She may be contacted at
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