Romance at the workplace is as old as, well, … the workplace. But in today’s litigious society it’s best for employers to set some ground rules.
A total ban on interoffice dating is unrealistic and unwise. Instead, adopt an anti-fraternization policy that bans relationships between employees who hold a boss/subordinate relationship.
Boss/employee relationships are rarely equal and may be bad for morale if co-workers think the lover is being favored in the workplace.
But take note: Employees who aren’t involved in an affair with the boss won’t necessarily win a sex discrimination lawsuit if they don’t get the perks their co-worker got.
Recent case: David Krasner worked for a New York bank. He alleged that his male boss was having an affair with Krasner’s female co-worker. He complained to HR that the relationship violated the bank’s ethics standards. Shortly after, Krasner was terminated.
He sued for discrimination, but the court dismissed his case. It reasoned that “unfavored” co-workers aren’t the victims of sex discrimination just because a boss favors a paramour. Nor was reporting the affair a “protected activity.” (Krasner v. HSH Nordbank, et al., No. 08-Civ-8499, SD NY, 2010)
Final note: Favoring a lover isn’t necessarily illegal discrimination, but that doesn’t mean employers should condone the practice. While Krasner didn’t win, he certainly cost his former employer money in needless legal fees.
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