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Does Your Company Need a Love Contract?

Mar 29, 2024 | Phillip J. Addis

According to Forbes, 60 percent of adults have had a workplace romance and 40 percent of these relationships involve cheating on an existing partner, according to a recent Forbes Workplace Romance Statistics survey.

To protect themselves, employers have created policies to prohibit or at least regulate workplace romances. These policies have a very lofty sounding name, such as “Policies on fraternization or non-fraternization.”

In plain language - trying to control physical and romantic relationships between co-workers.

Employers have sometimes resorted to “Love Contracts,” where both parties sign a statement that the relationship is consensual, they will behave professionally and understand the company’s sexual harassment policies. Almost 50 percent of companies have instituted fraternization policies, according to Roger Dunn Group, PC.

Why would an employer want to have such a policy?

Relationships between co-workers can result in claims of conflicts of interest, favoritism, and sexual harassment. The Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that employers can be held liable for sexual harassment by employees. See Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).

If the policies are reasonable, clear, and applied consistently, courts have upheld them. It is not just co-workers where companies face risks. Romance between a company’s employees and its vendors, suppliers, or contractors can also lead to claims of conflict of interest or favoritism.

Of course, there is also the problem of what happens when the relationship ends. What effect does this have on the company’s morale or the ability of people to work together? As an example of what can happen, this music video from Jacob Lowenstein says it best, "I Pray for You.”

If the break-up is truly bad, Carrie Underwood demonstrates what can happen in her video, “ Before He Cheats.”

The other side of the argument is that while employers can regulate workplace romances, they cannot infringe on employees’ privacy rights. The U.S. Constitution and some state laws can be interpreted to protect off-duty “activities.”

Realistically, are employees going to go to their boss and sign a “Love Contract” admitting to cheating on their partner? As an employer, is this something you want to know?

In summary, “Love Contracts” are allowed, but there are questions to consider before creating a non-fraternization policy. We would suggest that you contact a professional to help craft a policy for your company and recommend NOT copying one off of the internet, or soon your company may be part of a breakup music video.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal or tax advice. Consult with a professional advisor for advice on your circumstances.