It is not uncommon for romantic relationships to transpire in the workplace. Therefore, an employer may have you sign a love contract as part of the onboarding process when beginning a new job, or when you are in a relationship with a colleague.
A love contract in the workplace is a legal document that limits an employer’s liability in romantic relationships between employees. It states that the relationship is consensual, outlines acceptable romantic behavior in the workplace, and protects the employer from sexual harassment lawsuits.
The rest of this article will explain the negative consequences of a workplace romance and how love contracts can save your job and reputation. I will also explore what to put in a love contract.
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What Are Potentially Negative Consequences of a Workplace Romance?
A workplace romance might seem fun and romantic to watch in movies. However, in the real world there are potentially negative consequences both for the employer and employees involved.
Potentially negative consequences of a workplace romance are possible favoritism, loss of reputation for employees, possible sexual harassment claims, and higher employee turnover. Employees will also be more distracted, which leads to lower productivity.
Let’s explore these negative consequences in more detail:
Employees Will Be Distracted
A workplace romance will distract not only the two employees in a relationship but other employees too. Workplace romances are notorious for gossiping, and employees may find the romance an exciting topic to discuss, leading to a decrease in productivity.
Furthermore, the couple involved might find it harder to concentrate on work when their better half is present. And if quarrels occur, they will focus more on their relationship than their work duties.
Suppose the relationship is between a supervisor and subordinate. In that case, this can lead to the subordinate having a unique advantage over other employees, as it is likely that their romantic partner will favor them. Furthermore, this might also cause animosity between employees, leading to a toxic professional environment.
Loss of Reputation
As an employee involved in a workplace romance, it’s easy to lose your credibility. Your managers and co-workers might start viewing you negatively as they might feel you are favored.
Additionally, they might lose respect for you because they feel you are focusing more on another person than your job.
Possible Sexual Harassment Claims
If the relationship sours, an employee may claim that they were sexually harassed by the other. This affects the employee being charged and ruins the company’s reputation.
Furthermore, if the couple publicly displays their affection toward one another, it can make other employees uncomfortable.
Employees Might Leave the Company
If favoritism occurs, other employees will feel that they are neglected when it comes to promotions, etc. This can lead to them feeling disvalued, and they might leave the company.
Also, if the relationship ends, the couple might feel uncomfortable working together, and one of them could resign.
How Love Contracts Can Save Your Job And Reputation
The purpose of having both people sign a love contract is to confirm that the relationship is consensual and to protect the employer from sexual harassment lawsuits.
However, a love contract can also benefit you as an employee. Let’s explore how love contracts can save your job and reputation in detail below:
- The love contract legally declares your relationship. Therefore, when gossip happens, you can rest assured that you are honest and transparent. You have nothing to hide.
- You will be more cautious when associating with your romantic partner at work, keeping your reputation intact. You are bound to act professionally in the workplace, as signing a love contract means adhering to the rules outlined by your employer.
- Your employer can’t use your relationship as a reason to fire you. The love contract is a legal acknowledgment of the existence of the relationship by the employer. Therefore, they can’t fire you unless you break the rules of the contract.
- The love contract shows that your relationship is honest and transparent. And when you have nothing to hide, you inevitably gain respect from your peers.
What To Put In A Love Contract?
Sections to put in a love contract include a statement of consensuality confirming that the parties voluntarily entered into a relationship, and rules for romantic behavior in the workplace. Furthermore, the parties must state that they will not claim for sexual harassment.
Let’s explore these areas of the love contract in more detail:
Statement of Consensuality
One of the most critical parts of the love contract is the statement that clarifies that the relationship is consensual, and that the parties were not coerced.
If you do not state that your relationship is consensual, it could lead to a harassment case being opened against one of the parties in the future. Therefore, a statement of consensuality is an integral part of the contract.
It also protects employees from being forced or coerced into relationships by their higher-level managers.
Rules for Romantic Behavior in the Workplace
Every love contract will provide rules for what is and isn’t allowed in the workplace between two romantically involved employees. This may vary given the employer; some are more strict than others, and some are quite liberal. But there is a basic standard that is outlined below:
- Prohibition of relationships between supervisors and subordinates: Some employers will prohibit relationships between supervisors and subordinates, even if the relationship is consensual. They do this because it can create an environment where manipulation and coercion occur.
- Conducting yourself in a professional manner: No matter where you work, you will be expected to conduct yourself professionally, even when interacting with your partner in the workplace.
- No discussing the relationship with other employees: Some employers will forbid you from discussing your relationship with your colleagues, as this may lead to gossip, innuendos, and other unprofessional tactics.
- No arguing with your partner in the workplace: Employers may also state that you should keep any disagreements and disputes with your partner private. Arguing with your partner at work can also lead to gossip or even affect the overall mood of your co-workers.
- No texting or messaging each other excessively at work: Most business communications take place through online messaging apps today. And your employer might ask you to refrain from messaging your partner unless it’s for business purposes.
- No kissing or touching inappropriately. Employers will ask that you refrain from public displays of affection as kissing or touching your partner in the office is unprofessional.
All of the behaviors listed above will disturb a healthy and productive work environment. And if you sign a love contract that has these rules stipulated, your employer has the right to terminate you if you engage in any of these behaviors.
Love contracts might also include a list of acceptable behaviors that allow you to interact with your partner at work without disrupting the work environment. Most employers will allow you to stop by your partner’s office and speak with them for a short time, eat lunch with them, and leave or arrive to work together. These actions don’t affect your ability to do your job effectively, which is why most employers will allow them.
Remember, the exact rules in the love contract may vary depending on your employer. However, there will still be rules that outline, in detail, what is not allowed in the workplace between two romantically involved employees. And it’s your responsibility to adhere to these rules.
Sexual Harassment Claims
Sometimes if a relationship ends badly, one party may accuse the other of sexual harassment to ruin their reputation. However, the employer’s reputation also suffers terribly, and they will be involved in the lawsuit.
Therefore, love contracts protect employers from sexual harassment lawsuits by limiting their liability if the relationship goes poorly – the party filing the lawsuit cannot claim in court that the employer played a role in the harassment.
The document indemnifies or makes the employer a harmless, un-involved 3rd party if either party signing the document incurs any loss.
Therefore, it is critical to include a section within the love contract where the employees must agree not to make any sexual harassment claims.
Workplace relationships are normal, and they can work well without disrupting the productivity or peacefulness of the work environment.
However, to protect themselves from liability if the relationship ends badly and to outline the rules of what they expect from two employees in a romantic relationship, employers will have you sign a love contract.
A love contract will outline how to enjoy your romantic relationship with your co-worker in a way that isn’t invasive to either party involved in the relationship and to the rest of the employees.
- Wikipedia: Love Contract
- Workable: Employee Relationships in the Workplace Policy
- ThinkHR: Company Love Contract
- BetterHelp: What Is a Love Contract, and Do I Need One?