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Depending on the nature of the relationship, how you handle workplace romances is mostly up to your organization’s preference or policy.

If the employees do not report to one another and are engaged in a mutually consenting relationship, no action may be needed. Some organizations prefer to ban office dating, but I find this difficult or impossible to enforce and often not worth the time and effort. It can also create a Big Brother-like feeling, reducing trust between management and employees, and often forcing relationships to be kept secret. Some employers choose to use a “Consensual Relationship Agreement” when they know employees are dating, which establishes that both parties are part of the relationship by choice, and lays out some ground rules for how to behave.

Instead of either of these, I recommend communicating to the employees your relevant workplace policies (e.g. harassment) and your expectations regarding behavior in the workplace, and leaving it at that. In most cases, the less time management spends delving into employees’ personal lives, the better.

That said, I do recommend prohibiting managers from dating subordinate employees as a standard policy, even if layers of management separate them. There could be issues with preferential treatment and complaints of harassment if the relationship ends. These situations could expose your organization to increased risk.

If you decide to prohibit all employee dating, be careful when wording your policy. Outright “non-fraternization” policies have the potential to violate Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees’ rights to engage in concerted activity. Courts have found that use of the word “fraternize” without additional explanation could potentially discourage employees from exercising their rights, so I recommend language that specifically refers to “employee dating.”

Eric, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

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Clergy Financial Resources serves as a resource for clients to help analyze the complexity of clergy tax law, church payroll & HR issues. Our professionals are committed to helping clients stay informed about tax news, developments and trends in various specialty areas.

This article is intended to provide readers with guidance in tax matters. The article does not constitute, and should not be treated as professional advice regarding the use of any particular tax technique. Every effort has been made to assure the accuracy of the information. Clergy Financial Resources and the author do not assume responsibility for any individual’s reliance upon the information provided in the article. Readers should independently verify all information before applying it to a particular fact situation, and should independently determine the impact of any particular tax planning technique. If you are seeking legal advice, you are encouraged to consult an attorney.

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