Dating In The Workplace: Do Employers Have The Right To Regulate The Social Activities Of Their Employees?

1297 words - 5 pages

Many couples' meet in the workplace because that is where many people spend the majority of their waking hours. The workplace is also a great place to get to know other people that may have similar interests. However, there is a catch. Rapid increases in sexual harassment lawsuits by employees have left employers scrambling to protect themselves. Therefore, workplace protections against sexual harassment have grown much stronger in recent years. What types of situations are employers are attempting to protect themselves from? Here are a few examples: When a relationship ends, if one member of the former couple continues to pursue the other member at work after a breakup to try to "patch things up". The employer can be found liable for sexual harassment. When a supervisor dates a subordinate, it is very difficult to prove that the relationship was consensual because of the differential in power. When public displays of affection occur, even among consenting adults who are dating each other. This can create an atmosphere that encourages other employees to engage in conduct that can constitute sexual harassment. There are three potential solutions for employers to address their potential exposure to a sexual harassment claim arising from workplace dating. Ignore it and hope that no one claims harassment, adopt a policy prohibiting dating, or adopt a policy that requires disclosure of the relationship.Ignoring a potential problem and hoping a negative situation does not arise is the first solution. This solution would be popular with those who prefer using utilitarian ethics. Utilitarian ethics state that the best decision is the one that benefits the majority of the people. Another benefit employers enjoy by implementing this type of policy is the reduction of confrontational situations with employees over workplace romances. If a problem does occur, most companies will address it under the employer's sexual harassment policy. Unfortunately, the majority of these policies do not directly address workplace dating. This leaves the employer in a precarious position, because they have failed to be proactive. Many companies have paid a hefty price for using this strategy. Therefore, it is the least effective of the three possible solutions.The second solution for employers is to adopt a policy prohibiting dating. This solution would be popular with those who prefer using deontological ethics. Deontological ethics state that the best decision is the one that is ultimately the right thing to do, no matter the consequences. Unfortunately, this solution is only moderately effective because employees still tend to date; they simply hide their relationship from the employer. By implementing this policy, employers also take the risk of lawsuits claiming invasion of privacy. Ultimately, this only provides partial protection against the possibility for a liability lawsuit for the employer if the relationship goes awry. This is especially true in the...

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