Love Contracts the New Norm for Workplace Romance

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HR Web Café has an interesting post about so-called “Love Contracts,”
which are set to replace traditional workplace dating bans:

Forty percent of U.S. workers have dated an office colleague, with 31 percent of those romances progressing on to marriage, according to a recent workplace dating survey survey by CareerBuilder.

(Times are changing). Yesterday’s employer policies banning or restricting workplace dating are giving way to the so-called love contract, a written acknowledgment that a workplace relationship is consensual. Generally, the terms of such a contract would involve both parties agreeing to abide by company policies, both while dating and should the relationship end.

Attorney Marilyn Sneirson…suggests several key elements that should be addressed in love contracts:

• Dating employees are expected to follow certain guidelines, such as refraining from displays of affection at work or work- related events
• Either employee “can end the relationship without fear of work-related retaliation”
• Dating employees agree to waive their rights to pursue a claim of sexual harassment for any event prior to the signing of the contract

Does anyone actually follow these kinds of protocols? Let me illustrate the kinds of office debauchery I’ve witnessed in the past, when dating bans were still the norm:

– A makeout session on the ground, between cars in the parking lot, at 11am.
– A very active Jacuzzi at an office offsite
– Don’t get me started on offsite hotel rooms
– One couple kept late nights. Really late nights.

Perhaps the Internet and publishing industries, where I’ve worked in the past, employ more young people than others, making these cases exceptional. But I can’t imagine that adapting laws will do much more than serve a few litigious individuals and ensure compliance to state or local standards. People have incentive to fall back on these laws, but not to follow them.

The nice part about love contracts is that they admit the inevitability of office romances. Better to structure the verbiage around an existing phenomenon than try to ban it entirely, which only adds guilt to the equation.

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