Business Law Employment Law Legal Topics

Contracts on Love?

love_200375930-001When love is in the office air, employers should take heed and whip out a love contract!

Romantic relationships between employees are not all hearts and flowers: they pose a substantial risk for employers. The risk is even greater when one of the romantically involved employees supervises the other. See Govt C §12940(j)(1); 2 Cal Code Regs §7287.6(b).

Things may start off very welcome and consensual, but romance can turn sour and then it becomes a problem when the employees involved bring their personal conflict into the office.

Although there are limits as to what an employer can do in terms of regulating an employee’s personal relationships outside of the office, employers can and should take steps to minimize problems of supervision, safety, security, and morale that affect life in the office. See Govt C §12940(a)(3)(A); 2 Cal Code Regs §7292.5.

One step employers can take is using what’s been called a “love contract.” A love contract can mitigate some of the risks of office romance to the employer in 3 important ways:

  1. It establishes a factual baseline that the romantic relationship is mutually welcome, which minimizes the risk that one or both of the employees will later deny that the relationship was consensual;
  2. It reaffirms the company’s sexual harassment and discrimination policy, which will help the company defend against any claim that it failed to prevent harassment; and
  3. It establishes a clear reporting mechanism so that both employees have a way to make complaints if any issues develop.

A love contract can help employers defend against certain potential claims by showing that they used reasonable care to prevent and correct any harassment and that the employee unreasonably failed to make a complaint under the policy or to avoid harm otherwise.

Although the love contract takes the form of a traditional contract, it’s intended to be a statement of the company’s harassment policy and an acknowledgment of the policy and agreement by the employees to abide by it. Employers may want to incorporate an arbitration clause in the love contract for disputes arising out of the social relationship.

Are you interested in having a love contract for your company or your clients? CEB has a sample contract in the chapter on employment contracts in Drafting Employment Documents for California Employers, and an alternative sample love contract is in CEB’s Advising California Employers and Employees, §15.90A.

Related CEB blog posts:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

6 replies on “Contracts on Love?”

If you have a business, this is an issue that may very well present itself sooner or later. The best thing you can do to handle interoffice relationships is to have a policy in place before the need arises.

The first and most important step is to decide if you will even allow office relationships. The main problem that exists with this type of relationship is the after-effects in the event the couple breaks up. While most couples can act like adults about the manner, there will usually be a broken heart involved, and there may even be some bitterness and other employees taking sides. Some companies would rather bypass the issue altogether and opt to forbid them at all on the grounds of termination.

Before you consider this type of policy, it’s important to realize that a policy is not going to stop two people who are interested in each other from dating. You can also take some important suggestions from expert Solicitors.

A love contract might sound quite a novel topic but the risk of being sued by an employee can be quite high if you do not protect yourself from a wide range of potential issues.

If in doubt always talk to your HR consultant in conjunction with a reliable solicitor,

Add your comment to the blog post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s