How should we handle a workplace romance gone bad?

Question: “Two of our employees have been having problems with each other at work. When I sat them down to find out what was going on, I learned the two had an affair but recently broke up. The man has been badmouthing the woman among co-workers, and that was the source of the bickering. I told them to keep their personal problems to themselves, but I suspect this conflict will continue. If it does, what should I do?“—RP, Texas


work place romance is not illegal, I would suggest separating them as much as possible.

If the man is causing the problem, and it continues, give him a written warning and make it plain that the next step is termination. An alternative, if possible, is to transfer one of them to another department (preferably the man) so they don’t have to work together.

Do you have a policy that covers dating? If not you may want to consider drafting one that includes a romance contract. Most employer attorneys have drafts for these. Also, his behavior is probably covered under your sexual harassment policy. Since you are aware of the behavour you have an obligation to address it even without a formal complaint. I would follow your normal steps of discipline as you would with any other sexual harassment situation.

The male employee is engaging in Sexual Harrassment. Your company policy should spell out what steps are required to be taken, starting with the woman filing a complaint.

The man is creating a hostile work environment. Follow your disciplinary process. Since you are aware of it the woman does not have to file a formal complaint.It is your responsibility to have a hostile free work environment.