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How do I handle an office romance in a way that doesn't jeopardize my job?
2/1/2010
 
ROBIN'S PERSPECTIVE: It doesn’t matter what type of workplace you go to everyday – the potential to find love abounds. Studies show that up to 40% of Americans have found that romance exists no farther than the cubicle down the hall.

The intensity and frequency of the interactions at work can create a ‘hothouse’ effect, helping to forge close bonds of friendship that can easily develop into a romantic whirlwind. "Attraction happens, and if it happens to you, you’ll need to assess the risks. Is this likely to be the great love of your life, like it is for approximately 25% of co-workers – or just a fling?"

Generally speaking, office romances that are truly consensual do not violate the law. However, David Letterman's recent admissions about having sex with numerous staffers has refocused attention on issues about sexual harassment, the welcome vs. unwelcome nature of sexual conduct at work, and a flood of questions about "how do I handle a romance at work in a way that doesn't jeopardize my job?"

Here's some advice about what to do when coupling occurs "on the clock":

1. Know the policy: Find out what policy, if any, your company has regarding office romances. To protect against lawsuits, some organizations use "love contracts" – documents that HR professionals ask both parties and the company representative to sign at the beginning of the relationship to make it clear that the affair is consensual.

2. Take it slow: Group lunches and after-work outings are the best way to make sure a potential partner is worth the risks that come with dating a co-worker.

3. Don’t assume the company email system is your friend: You cannot write love notes on company computers with any expectation of privacy. The content belongs to the company and not to you.

4. No Public Displays of Affection!

5. If things get serious, strategize your options: Should you disclose to the company? Which of you should look for another job? Get some good advice regarding next steps from professionals who are not working for your employer.

To hear a recent interview I did on sexual harassment in the workplace, and the David Letterman scandal, go to:

http://www.wfan.com/topic/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=4081765

To see my appearance on the CNN News special "Workplace Romance & Relationships", go to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TXnNDsGEmI
 
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Robin Bond
 
Robin Bond, Esq.
 
 
Workplace Legal Analyst


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