Well, Valentine’s day has come and gone and love is definitely in the air. As human beings we all seek acceptance and love and considering that we spend 1/3 of our lives at work it only makes sense that we are often attracted to and begin relationships with co-workers.

Take me and my husband for example, we met on the job while I was a summer intern working for an Industrial/Organizational Consulting Firm out of Alexandria, VA and he was in the US Military (oh how we love a man in uniform…). I was assigned to a military base to validate pre-employment tests used to place new enlistees in their MOS and my husband was one of the military officers assigned to lead the hands-on portion of the tests. Although we were working together to complete a project, our employer’s didn’t have to deal with difficult entanglements such as: how were we going to interact every day, were their hierarchal reporting relationships to be considered, what would happen if we broke up or other potential conflicts of interest. But most workplace romances aren’t that lucky and thus carry with them certain employment and legal challenges, including the 4 listed below:

  1. Harassment Liabilities
  2. Employee engagement and morale
  3. Conflicts of Interest
  4. Charges of favoritism or discrimination

While employee referrals and recommendations for candidates to fill jobs are highly sought after by most companies, the effects of those relationships in the workplace should be closely monitored to ensure a culture of respect, dignity and fairness is maintained. A few rules of thumb to consider include:

  1. Employees should never work for and/or report to a relative or business associate, including spouses, parents, siblings, landlords, etc.
  2. Certain high ranking positions should never have relatives employed in their facility; including corporate officers, non-employee directors or other high level positions with a significant sphere of influence and decision making authority for hiring, firing, promotions, salary administration, performance evaluations, etc.

If relationships develop during the course of employment that would create a conflict of interest, every effort should be made to find a reasonable solution that will protect the privacy, reputation and credibility of the employees involved and the company.

It’s said that love is what makes the world go ‘round, and with a little common sense you can ensure a workplace where employees create deep, meaningful relationships and be assured if those relationships turn romantic that they are handled with dignity and respect.  By the way, my husband and I will celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary this year and we owe it all to our respective employers for making sure we were in the right place at the right time all those years ago.