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Q. We recently defended a workplace harassment lawsuit against our company involving two co-workers who broke up. To avoid future problems, can we impose prohibitions against co-workers dating to avoid future problems?

A. It is difficult to keep employees from dating co-workers. Even with a policy, enforcement is nearly impossible. A federal appeals court recently held that policies prohibiting fraternization among co-workers may violate the National Labor Relations Act. So any policy must be worded carefully.

To limit future exposure, explicitly prohibit dating between a supervisor and any employee who reports to that supervisor, since there is potential for sexual harassment in a relationship where individual power is unequal. Supervisors should disclose when they are dating a subordinate so that management can address the situation.

Any policy should be gender- and sexual-orientation-neutral. And all employers should craft an anti-harassment policy that prohibits harassment based upon protected characteristics.  

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