With the prevalence of workplace romances and the drama they can bring, many employers opt to put policies in place that forbid these types of relationships. It’s a quick and easy way to avoid the complications that come with workplace dating. However, these policies are not always effective and can result in employees dating in secret, which can lead to its own issues. This is where a love contract may be a good option.
What is a Love Contract?
A love contract is a written agreement between an employer and employees who are involved in a romantic and/or sexual relationship. Putting a love contract in place can help protect the employer in the event that one of the employees later alleges sexual harassment. It can also provide appropriate behavior rules for the couple, emphasizing that the couple must refrain from allowing their intimate relationship to affect their co-workers or their professional performance.
While some may feel that a love contract could feel intrusive, it provides an opportunity to ensure employees know who to turn to should the relationship take a turn for the worse and what is expected from the couple while on the clock. Additionally, if the employees share with you that the relationship has ended, you can be on the lookout for any retaliatory behavior and stop it before it becomes problematic.
What is Included in a Love Contract?
Love contracts should generally state the following:
- The relationship is voluntary and consensual
- The parties are aware of the employer's sexual harassment policy and who to turn to should sexual harassment become an issue
- Prohibit any inappropriate conduct in the workplace
- Prohibit retaliation should the relationship end and request for the employees to inform you of a change in the relationship status
The Downside of Love Contracts
While love contracts can help protect an employer from sexual harassment claims and show a company’s effort to prevent harassment in the workplace, they can’t completely absolve a company from all liability. Employees can also claim that they were coerced into signing the contract. Because of this, you should ensure that these contracts are not signed under duress and let employees know the ways that these contracts also provide protection to them. For instance, if the relationship ends and one employee decides to falsely claim they were sexually harassed by the other employee as retaliation, this contract can show the relationship was consensual.
There is also a possibility that not all employees will disclose their relationship. This could happen for a number of reasons such as the relationship being extramarital. Of course, if an employee does not share this information with you, you would not have the opportunity to present a love contract. Because this is a very real possibility, it is a good idea to regularly go over your company’s sexual harassment policy with all employees to ensure everyone knows what steps to take if they feel they are being harassed.
Despite these limitations, a love contract offered in good faith can provide additional protection and opportunities to educate employees about policies in place to protect them.
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