Creating an Office Fraternization Policy

If only good management just involved helping employees be productive. One of the biggest challenges facing leadership is managing the relationships co-workers have with each other. Your business should already have a sexual harassment policy, but that doesn’t cover other types of relationships that may cause problems. Let employees know company expectations for workplace behavior to clarify what is acceptable and what’s inappropriate. Whatever your choice about the acceptability of workplace relationships, you should have a written policy.

Fraternization Dangers

A fraternization policy is sometimes called a dating policy, because it involves romantic relationships between employees. Some employers think what happens outside of work hours doesn’t affect them, but it often has adverse effects, such as the following:

  • Favoritism – When a member of management dates an employee, he or she may not intend to give preferential treatment, but it’s natural to support someone you care about. Even if the supervisor shows no favoritism, there might be a perception of it if the employee is promoted or receives job-related perks.
  • Strained relationships – People sometimes disagree in any relationship, and in romantic relationships, that disagreement creates tension. If they decide to no longer be involved, the tension might become extreme. Often times, strained or former relationships can lead to allegations of sexual harassment.
  • Lower morale and productivity – If other employees think they are at a disadvantage because of the relationship, they begin to feel resentful and discouraged. This encourages gossip and job dissatisfaction.

What to Include

Start by explaining the purpose of the fraternization policy. Most employers create policies to avoid misunderstandings and make the workplace a positive environment for all employees. These policies aren’t intended to keep people from building close friendships or preventing relationships between peers.

Avoid the potential pitfalls of workplace romance with a fraternization policy that makes your expectations clear and specifies the following

  • No relationships between leadership and employees. These types of relationships can lead to allegations of sexual harassment.
  • Specify what types of relationships are permitted and what types are not permitted.
  • Consider prohibiting public displays of affection. Dating employees can make others uncomfortable and fuel inappropriate jokes and conversation if they show physical affection in the office.
  • Explain how employees should report an inappropriate relationship if they know it’s taking place.
  • If employees are already in consensual relationships that predate the policy, have them sign an agreement that helps prevent sexual harassment allegations and regulates future interactions on company time.

Experienced employment attorneys like those at Simon | Paschal PLLC can help businesses make sense of the continually evolving world of business and employment law. Contact them at (972) 893-9340 for assistance with the development of a fraternization policy that safeguards your employees and your firm.

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