Employee Dating Policies in the #MeToo Era

The recent #MeToo movement has shone a spotlight on widespread sexual harassment in the workplace, leading many employers to reevaluate their employee dating policies. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) advises that while an employer should not necessarily try to limit any and all on- or off-duty contact or relationships between employees, it may certainly impose reasonable limits on any such relationships or conduct when the conduct threatens work relationships, jeopardizes work flow, or harms the employer’s reputation among its customers or in the community at large.

In light of revelations coming out of the #MeToo movement, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests that employers may want to take a fresh look at their company dating policies, to ensure that they are “logical, easy to follow and are presented in the best light to employees.” They also recommend that employers present anti-harassment and dating policies in the same section of the employee handbook.

According to TWC and SHRM, an effective dating policy may contain the following elements:

  • Expectation that any inter-office relationships will not affect workplace conduct, workplace operations, or overall productivity (SHRM)
  • Prohibition of inappropriate physical contact on company premises (SHRM)
  • Rules about relationships with a supervisor or a direct report. TWC suggests the following language in its sample policy: “A supervisor should not engage in any form of relationship with a subordinate employee that could potentially have the appearance of creating or promoting favoritism or special treatment for the subordinate employee.”
  • Description of relationships that could cause the employees involved to be subject to disciplinary action, such as a relationship that “creates a harassing, demeaning, or hostile working environment for any employee” (TWC)
  • Prohibition of use of company facilities or equipment for “furtherance of non-work-related activities or relationships” without prior authorization (TWC)
  • Handling of relationships that lead to inter-office gossip and/or unfavorable publicity for the company (TWC)
  • Applicability of employee dating policies “regardless of the sexual orientation of the parties involved” (SHRM)
  • Instructions for employees with questions or concerns about the policy to contact the appropriate HR representative (SHRM)

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