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Even a consensual relationship, if it goes sour, can result in unwelcome advances, stalking, or other predatory conduct.In a consensual relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate, the subordinate often is the recipient of preferential treatment.The policy must clearly state whether dating among employees is prohibited or merely discouraged.If dating is merely discouraged, the policy should also indicate the counseling or documentation that will occur if employees violate the policy.The policy might also be limited to supervisor/subordinate dating, or allow dating between co-workers who do not work alongside one another.In addition, any policy that prohibits co-worker dating should have an exception for employees who are married to one another.
If done properly, a consensual relationship agreement will make it more difficult for an employee to claim that the relationship was "unwelcome." In addition, the agreement will create a question about why the employee did not seek to stop the harassment by reporting it to management.The Society for Human Resource Management and Career conducted a Workplace Romance survey in 2006 and found that only 9 percent of the HR professionals surveyed indicated that dating among employees was prohibited in their organizations.More than 70 percent did not have formal written or verbal policies dealing with romantic relationships.The difficulty for the employer is proving that the relationship was consensual.Often, an employee will argue that he or she was an unwilling participant in a relationship that merely appeared to be consensual.If you haven't, then the odds are that you know someone who has.A 1995 survey estimated that 80 percent of all employees have either observed or been involved in a romantic relationship at work. The Problems with Employee Dating Even though romantic relationships in the workplace are common, employers have legitimate reasons for concern about employee dating.In fact, some organizations have policies that prohibit these types of relationships.According to Vault.com's 2010 Office Romance Survey, almost 60 percent of respondents admitted to having participated in some form of workplace romance.The employer is most at risk when trying to investigate and enforce a "no dating" policy by hiring a private investigator to follow the employee around, secretly reviewing an employee's voice mail, or listening in on an employee's office phone line. Consensual Relationship Agreements As an alternative, some employers require that employees enter a "consensual relationship agreement." The agreement, signed by both employees and management, provides that the employees will not allow the relationship to interfere with or impact the work environment.The agreement also confirms and documents that the relationship is consensual and voluntary.