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Should you prohibit employee dating?

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2023 | Employer Defense

In some office situations, employee dating is fairly common. Some employees may even see it as the most natural form of dating since they spend more time with their coworkers than anyone else. It’s just where they meet people, as they used to do in college.

However, as the owner of a business, you may be considering prohibiting dating between employees who work for you. Should you do this, and are you even able to? What are some of the reasons why this may be beneficial?

You can’t make dating illegal

You sometimes can prohibit dating in terms of creating an employee policy that says people are not allowed to be involved in romantic relationships with their coworkers.

Under California law, though, you must establish that there is a conflict of interest – or that there could be. People do have the right to privacy and freedom of association in the California constitution. Blanket bans without a clear conflict could violate those rights.

Finally, the California Labor Code ensures that companies cannot fire workers for taking actions outside of work that are legal, even if they are against a company policy. Employers need to be careful with terminations for violations of this policy, once again concentrating on clear conflicts of interest or the potential for harassment due to different levels of power.

Should you do it?

If you do decide to create this policy, hoping that workers follow it, the above is perhaps the most important reason to do so: It can help to protect you from situations in which there are allegations of sexual harassment.

For example, say that a supervisor wants to date a lower-level employee and continually pesters them to ask them out. They could be reported for sexual harassment, which is a serious problem for your company. If you simply prohibit dating in the first place, you may be able to prevent this situation from occurring because the supervisor will know that the harassment and violation of the policy would be clear.

As noted, making such a policy also avoids issues where there is an imbalance of power between the two parties. These types of relationships can lead to claims of harassment or favoritism. Some companies allow office dating only between employees who are at the same corporate level.

Harassment can still happen

That being said, you could certainly still find your company facing these types of accusations, no matter what policies you have in place. If you are, it’s very important to know about all of the next steps and the legal options at your disposal.