Would you sign a love contract at work?

love contracts and office romance

 

Office romance, love on the job, workplace relationships….it is pretty common to date a co-worker and now it is becoming common to be asked to sign a Love Contract.

Let’s face it, the success rate for workplace couples is high. My sister, a teacher, met her husband on the job. He is a teacher, too, and they’ve been working at the same high school together for 20 years.  I love hearing about couples like my sister and her husband who met at work and have a wonderful, long marriage or relationship. As CBS This Morning noted: The modern workplace is one of America’s most reliable matchmakers. When you meet someone at work, you tend to have a common bond that makes it easier to get the spark ignited.

However,  I’m well aware that love at work in the year 2018 is fraught with concerns. Now that sexual harassment is in the national spotlight,  human resources departments are going the distance to educate and prevent this type of workplace behavior — and the lawsuits that result. The latest employer trend: Making employees who date sign a Love Contract.

So let’s say you are dating a co-worker and human resources wants you to sign a Love Contract. Would you know what that was and whether you should scribble your signature on the dotted line?

love contract

A Love Contract, also is known as a “Consensual Romance in the Workplace Agreement,” documents the relationship between employees. The purpose is to limit the liability of an organization in the event that the romantic relationship of the dating couple ends — particularly if it ends badly. The contract declares that the relationship is by consent. Both parties have to sign it. Some organizations have included guidelines on behavior appropriate at work for the dating couple.

Signing a paper saying that you are dating your co-worker isn’t very romantic, and it certainly doesn’t help with keeping your personal life private. But it does give a relationship some clarity. Whether you like it or not, by signing a Love Contract, in your employer’s eyes you are “officially” dating.

I have a friend who is dating her co-worker and recently signed a love contract. She winced when her HR director asked her to do it. Now, she says she feels a level of protection as a result of signing the contract, especially because the couples post photos together on social media. “Now I don’t have to hide the relationship from anyone at work,” she said.

Meanwhile, according to CareerBuilder’s Annual Valentine’s Day Survey for 2018, only about a third of people (36%) have dated a co-worker, or will admit to it … the lowest in ten years. It appears either people are afraid to date at work, or afraid to let anyone know about it.

Over the years, I have written about many couples who work together — happily. The CareerBuilder found – 31 percent of workers who dated at work ended up getting married. There also are couples who own businesses together quite successfully. CBS This Morning highlighted Hershey factory workers who are married and airline flight attendants who are married. The  stories of office romances that have flourished are plentiful.

Of course, we all know about the bad breakups in the workplace, too.  These bad breakups can be especially  problematic in smaller companies where employers may have fewer options for moving employees around. I have been in a small office where a couple went through a bad breakup and things got really awkward. Everyone in the office felt the tension until one of the two finally quit. Employers have a lot more than tension to worry about when co-workers split. Some employers have paid a high price in legal settlements when accusations get ugly.

Still, from the employee’s standpoint, one of my biggest concerns with a Love Contract is the invasion of privacy. What if your first relationship at work fails and you go on to date someone else in the workplace. Now, you have to sign another Love Contract. Will your employer pass judgement? Probably.

Employment attorney David C. Miller at Bryant Miller Olive in Miami had an interesting take on these contracts. Miller said while love contracts are intended to protect the employer, they might backfire.  “The problem here is that the premise is faulty. The love contract is itself intrusive and may even be the cause of problems between the employees. The employer is seen as meddling and can end up creating problems where none existed.”

Miller said his opinion is that a non-fraternization policy is fairer, easier to administer, and less likely to cause problems. Yet, he said, “I’m only glad that the company I worked for 25 or so years ago didn’t have one, since that’s where I met my to-be wife. The irony is not lost on me!”

Basically, there are pros and cons for the employee whose workplace implements Love Contracts. But for the employer, the contract is mostly a win.

The Scoop on Love Contracts  offers more insight on the benefits for all parties. In February, with love in the air, office romances may be blooming. Just don’t be surprised if your employer takes note and makes you sign on the dotted line.

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