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HRPA Webinar
February 10, 2016
Stuart E. Rudner
&
Richa Sandill
The Dos and Don’ts of
Workplace Romance
2
POLL
Have you
1. Dealt with workplace romance in your
office/organization
2. Dated a colleague
3. Met your spouse/significant other at work
3
Is this really an issue?
Forbes 2015 “The State of the Office
Romance”
 37% of workers admitting to office
relationships
– 30% of these led to marriages
 Retail most likely sector to find romance (62%)
 followed by technology (60%) and HR (57%)
4
 51% admitted to workplace
romances in Vault.com survey
– 47% aware of infidelity of
– 14% reported career setbacks
related to affair
 Michelle Obama was Barack’s
supervisor
5
Dangers of Workplace
Romances
 Can lead to:
– Conflicts of interest
– Jealousy / Poor morale
– Effect on career advancement
– Performance issues
– Inappropriate workplace behaviour
– Workplace harassment
– Constructive dismissal
6
Supervisor/subordinate relationship
 Cannot have one partner controlling other’s:
– Career trajectory
– Remuneration
– Workload
– Reviews
 Risk of beneficial treatment or perceived
beneficial treatment
 Risk of unfavourable treatment of someone who
has conflict with subordinate employee
7
Ban inter-employee
relationships?
 Many relationships start in workplace
 Workplace relationship is not a problem in
and of itself
 Probably can’t stop it from happening
 Only problem if it affects the workplace
8
Implementing Policies
 Publicize policies
 Train all employees: staff, managers,
supervisors, executives
 Monitor behaviour
 Discipline offenders
 Update regularly
 Incorporate into employment contracts
9
Conflict of Interest Policy
– Define conflicts of interest
– not specific to romantic relationships
 Address office romances as one example
– Address how conflicts dealt with
– Take prevention measures when you learn
about a potential problem
– Be consistent
10
Policies
 Disclosure
– Require disclosure of potential conflicts of
interest, including romantic relationships
– Only require disclosure if potential impact on
the workplace or conflict
11
Policies
 Harassment
– Harassment-free workplace
– Provide reporting mechanisms
– Duty to investigate
– Protections from retaliation
– Repercussions for knowingly making false
allegations
12
When a relationship is reported
 Address any conflict or potential conflict of interest
– Transfer one of the employees
– Change reporting structure so the subordinate reports
to different manager
– Change control over compensation, workload,
promotions etc
13
BUT
 Separating employees can be tricky:
– Small workplaces
– Senior employees
– Employees may not want to be separated
– Knowledge that this is the repercussion can
discourage employees from disclosing the
relationship in the first place
14
When a relationship is reported
 Agreement
– Have both employees sign agreement that:
 Relationship is consensual
 They have disclosed the relationship to the
Company
 They agree the relationship cannot and will not
affect the workplace
 Discuss concerns and expectations with
senior employee
15
Non-disclosure of romantic
relationship
 Many employees may not want to disclose their
relationship to the employer
 Relationship may involve extra-marital affair
 Company has no place in the bedroom
 But Company has right to know about potential
conflicts of interest or potential liabilities
 Breach of policy, dishonesty
16
When a workplace relationship
goes bad
 One party breaks it off
 Interested party is spurned
 Can lead to bad working relationships,
retribution, workplace harassment, or even
worse
17
Bill 168
 Genesis was murder of nurse, Lori
Dupont, by ex-boyfriend, doctor working
at same hospital, after she ended their
relationship
 Extreme example of how things can go
very badly
18
Bill 168
 Hospital knew about ongoing
harassment and threat against Ms. Dupont
 Failed to address it
 Scheduled to work together the day Ms.
Dupont was murdered
19
Bill 168
 Employer’s duty to provide safe and harassment-
free workplace
 Take harassment complaint seriously
 Duty to investigate
– Fairly
– Thoroughly
– Promptly
– Document!
– Do not make a decision ahead of time
20
Supervisor’s duty
 Supervisor who learns of harassment from
workplace romance must act
 Has to report it to HR, management,
ensure that it is addressed and
investigated
21
Supervisor’s duty
 Supervisor runs risk of being named
personally in lawsuit if she or he does not
advise the Company about harassment
issue
 Company can also be liable if supervisor
knew about harassment but didn’t report
it
22
Performance Issues
 Allowing relationship to get in way of work
 Flirting on company time or through company
means (i.e., email, internal chat software)
 “Covering” for one another
 Long breaks
 PDA in the workplace
23
Effect on other employees
 PDA or other inappropriate behaviour in
the workplace can make others
uncomfortable
 Attempt to hide relationship could lead to
threats or mistreatment
 Perception of unfair treatment or
favoritism
24
What should employees do?
 Report relationship
 Make sure relationship does not interfere with the workplace
 Keep a record of relationship
 Be honest if asked about relationship
25
Case Law Examples
 Reichard v. Kuntz (2011): “non
fraternization policy” at workplace required
disclosure of romances
– Employee begins extra marital affair at work
– Repeatedly denies affair to supervisors
– Co-worker confidante admitted it to
supervisors
– Led to suspension, severe loss of trust, and
dismissal for cause that was upheld in court
26
Case Law Examples
 Dillon v Dillon Hillstead Melanson (2015):
– Employer raised issue of sexual harassment as
cause for dismissal
– Plaintiff’s extra-marital relationship with client
at work had been allegedly disruptive; lied
about relationship to bosses
– Cause was found by court in plaintiff’s
dishonesty about affair
27
Case Law Examples
 Dooley v. CN Weber Ltd. (1994):
– Plaintiff dismissed after engaging in second
sexual relationship with a female subordinate
in spite of clear warnings not to continue to
do so
– Court found wrongful dismissal
– No evidence of detriment to company
– Not unreasonable for such relationship in
modern society
– No existing policy
28
Bottom Line
 Employers are not to intrude on
employees’ personal lives
 But if it impacts workplace…
 Need clear policies
 Need to address concerns
 Protect privacy
 Enforce policies
29
WORST CASE SCENARIO:
30
But if it works out:
31
32
Stuart E. Rudner
srudner@rudnermacdonald.com
416.640.6402 or 905.530.2484
Web: www.rudnermacdonald.com
Twitter: @CanadianHRLaw
LinkedIn: Connect with me, join the
Canadian HR Law Group and visit the Rudner
MacDonald Page
Blog: Rudner MacDonald Blog
Canadian HR Law:
http://www.hrreporter.com/blog/canadian-hr-law
FaceBook: Rudner MacDonald Page
Google+: Canadian HR Law, Rudner MacDonald
Page
YouTube: Rudner MacDonald channel

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The Do's and Don'ts of Workplace Romance

  • 1. HRPA Webinar February 10, 2016 Stuart E. Rudner & Richa Sandill The Dos and Don’ts of Workplace Romance
  • 2. 2
  • 3. POLL Have you 1. Dealt with workplace romance in your office/organization 2. Dated a colleague 3. Met your spouse/significant other at work 3
  • 4. Is this really an issue? Forbes 2015 “The State of the Office Romance”  37% of workers admitting to office relationships – 30% of these led to marriages  Retail most likely sector to find romance (62%)  followed by technology (60%) and HR (57%) 4
  • 5.  51% admitted to workplace romances in Vault.com survey – 47% aware of infidelity of – 14% reported career setbacks related to affair  Michelle Obama was Barack’s supervisor 5
  • 6. Dangers of Workplace Romances  Can lead to: – Conflicts of interest – Jealousy / Poor morale – Effect on career advancement – Performance issues – Inappropriate workplace behaviour – Workplace harassment – Constructive dismissal 6
  • 7. Supervisor/subordinate relationship  Cannot have one partner controlling other’s: – Career trajectory – Remuneration – Workload – Reviews  Risk of beneficial treatment or perceived beneficial treatment  Risk of unfavourable treatment of someone who has conflict with subordinate employee 7
  • 8. Ban inter-employee relationships?  Many relationships start in workplace  Workplace relationship is not a problem in and of itself  Probably can’t stop it from happening  Only problem if it affects the workplace 8
  • 9. Implementing Policies  Publicize policies  Train all employees: staff, managers, supervisors, executives  Monitor behaviour  Discipline offenders  Update regularly  Incorporate into employment contracts 9
  • 10. Conflict of Interest Policy – Define conflicts of interest – not specific to romantic relationships  Address office romances as one example – Address how conflicts dealt with – Take prevention measures when you learn about a potential problem – Be consistent 10
  • 11. Policies  Disclosure – Require disclosure of potential conflicts of interest, including romantic relationships – Only require disclosure if potential impact on the workplace or conflict 11
  • 12. Policies  Harassment – Harassment-free workplace – Provide reporting mechanisms – Duty to investigate – Protections from retaliation – Repercussions for knowingly making false allegations 12
  • 13. When a relationship is reported  Address any conflict or potential conflict of interest – Transfer one of the employees – Change reporting structure so the subordinate reports to different manager – Change control over compensation, workload, promotions etc 13
  • 14. BUT  Separating employees can be tricky: – Small workplaces – Senior employees – Employees may not want to be separated – Knowledge that this is the repercussion can discourage employees from disclosing the relationship in the first place 14
  • 15. When a relationship is reported  Agreement – Have both employees sign agreement that:  Relationship is consensual  They have disclosed the relationship to the Company  They agree the relationship cannot and will not affect the workplace  Discuss concerns and expectations with senior employee 15
  • 16. Non-disclosure of romantic relationship  Many employees may not want to disclose their relationship to the employer  Relationship may involve extra-marital affair  Company has no place in the bedroom  But Company has right to know about potential conflicts of interest or potential liabilities  Breach of policy, dishonesty 16
  • 17. When a workplace relationship goes bad  One party breaks it off  Interested party is spurned  Can lead to bad working relationships, retribution, workplace harassment, or even worse 17
  • 18. Bill 168  Genesis was murder of nurse, Lori Dupont, by ex-boyfriend, doctor working at same hospital, after she ended their relationship  Extreme example of how things can go very badly 18
  • 19. Bill 168  Hospital knew about ongoing harassment and threat against Ms. Dupont  Failed to address it  Scheduled to work together the day Ms. Dupont was murdered 19
  • 20. Bill 168  Employer’s duty to provide safe and harassment- free workplace  Take harassment complaint seriously  Duty to investigate – Fairly – Thoroughly – Promptly – Document! – Do not make a decision ahead of time 20
  • 21. Supervisor’s duty  Supervisor who learns of harassment from workplace romance must act  Has to report it to HR, management, ensure that it is addressed and investigated 21
  • 22. Supervisor’s duty  Supervisor runs risk of being named personally in lawsuit if she or he does not advise the Company about harassment issue  Company can also be liable if supervisor knew about harassment but didn’t report it 22
  • 23. Performance Issues  Allowing relationship to get in way of work  Flirting on company time or through company means (i.e., email, internal chat software)  “Covering” for one another  Long breaks  PDA in the workplace 23
  • 24. Effect on other employees  PDA or other inappropriate behaviour in the workplace can make others uncomfortable  Attempt to hide relationship could lead to threats or mistreatment  Perception of unfair treatment or favoritism 24
  • 25. What should employees do?  Report relationship  Make sure relationship does not interfere with the workplace  Keep a record of relationship  Be honest if asked about relationship 25
  • 26. Case Law Examples  Reichard v. Kuntz (2011): “non fraternization policy” at workplace required disclosure of romances – Employee begins extra marital affair at work – Repeatedly denies affair to supervisors – Co-worker confidante admitted it to supervisors – Led to suspension, severe loss of trust, and dismissal for cause that was upheld in court 26
  • 27. Case Law Examples  Dillon v Dillon Hillstead Melanson (2015): – Employer raised issue of sexual harassment as cause for dismissal – Plaintiff’s extra-marital relationship with client at work had been allegedly disruptive; lied about relationship to bosses – Cause was found by court in plaintiff’s dishonesty about affair 27
  • 28. Case Law Examples  Dooley v. CN Weber Ltd. (1994): – Plaintiff dismissed after engaging in second sexual relationship with a female subordinate in spite of clear warnings not to continue to do so – Court found wrongful dismissal – No evidence of detriment to company – Not unreasonable for such relationship in modern society – No existing policy 28
  • 29. Bottom Line  Employers are not to intrude on employees’ personal lives  But if it impacts workplace…  Need clear policies  Need to address concerns  Protect privacy  Enforce policies 29
  • 31. But if it works out: 31
  • 32. 32 Stuart E. Rudner srudner@rudnermacdonald.com 416.640.6402 or 905.530.2484 Web: www.rudnermacdonald.com Twitter: @CanadianHRLaw LinkedIn: Connect with me, join the Canadian HR Law Group and visit the Rudner MacDonald Page Blog: Rudner MacDonald Blog Canadian HR Law: http://www.hrreporter.com/blog/canadian-hr-law FaceBook: Rudner MacDonald Page Google+: Canadian HR Law, Rudner MacDonald Page YouTube: Rudner MacDonald channel

Editor's Notes

  1. CONFLICT OF INTEREST
  2. It’s actually in the interests of a supervisory employee to disclose a romantic relationship to the Company: this will help to alleviate the risk of future complaints of harassment Make it clear that the Company will not make the relationship public – within within the workplace or to others, such as customers, clients, or employees’ spouses. “we don’t want to interfere in personal lives but…”
  3. Ensure relationship is consensual
  4. Discuss the duty to investigate harassment complaints and the possibility that the complaint may be fabricated, or partially fabricated. Discuss what needs to be disclosed to who.
  5. 32