Having a policy in place that forbids workplace romance is a great idea. In theory, anyway.
“We have a strict ‘no-dating of coworkers’ policy. That prevents harassment claims for sure.”
Most experts say, “Good luck with that.” It’s next to impossible to prevent co-worker dating. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. Managers should be aware of the potential for harassment, especially if either party has any business power over the other.
Some companies ask employees to reveal relationships so the company can determine whether there is any potential harassment. (Unfortunately, with subordinate dating, there is always that potential — because once a couple breaks up, and then something negative happens to the subordinate, he or she can always claim it was because of the breakup.)
Here are some other “famous last words” in the harassment arena.
“As long as people don’t complain about my kidding and my pinching, I don’t have to worry.”
It is true that behavior must be unwelcome to be harassment. Unfortunately, in court people who seemed to be accepting or encouraging the behavior may tell the jury that they had to go along it so they could keep their job and feed their young children. That’s not going to end well for the company.
That’s why supervisors and managers need to be trained to be proactive in these situations. If behavior might be making people uncomfortable, better to stop it than to run the risk of a big lawsuit.
“I’ve been seeing one of my salespeople, but we both enjoy it — it’s not a boss thing, it’s a love thing.”
There’s no harassment here assuming both participants do enjoy it. But, again, many relationships come to an end. When they do, if there is ever any negative action taken against the subordinate, the subordinate is likely to cry harassment.
Furthermore, there’s a side issue to contemplate. In this scenario, co-workers will tend to believe that the subordinate in a relationship with the boss is getting special treatment.
“Only supervisors can harass.”
Generally, only supervisors or other high-ranking managers engage in tangible employment action harassment, but any co-worker can create a hostile environment.
“Our receptionist is attractive, and the delivery people tend to tease a little — well, a lot, actually — but they’re not employees, so there’s nothing I can do about them.”
If you allow a hostile environment to continue, even if created by an outsider, you are condoning harassment, and that is not going to play well in court. Management must take action by talking to the outsiders (and if necessary, to their management, requesting that they be reassigned).
Unpleasant Situation? Definitely!
Dealing with sexual harassment is a major hassle. You need to research the law, generate legally correct policies, write training materials, follow complex procedures for complaints, and fully document every step. Just gathering the resources for your program could take days.
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- Quizzes for each PowerPoint
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