Love-struck workers may be inevitable, but lawsuits from jilted lovers are not – if employees consent to a 'love contract.'
Five years ago, when Nicholas Turner began dating an employee who reported to him at Kaye/Bassman International Corp. in Plano, Texas, he did not try to hide their relationship. He was also careful to avoid any perception that he was playing favorites in his treatment of her. Their romance blossomed. When they married 18 months later, they joined at least four other couples who had wed after meeting there.
"The company doesn't frown on relationships," says Mr. Turner, chief operating officer of the recruiting firm. "They're going to happen. We support them."
It's an attitude more employers are accepting, however reluctantly, as Cupid's bow targets employees with increasing regularity. A combination of record numbers of working women, high divorce rates, and later marriages make the workplace a prime hunting ground. Surveys show that more than 40 percent of workers say they have dated a co-worker.
"The office has become the village of the 21st century," says Helaine Olen, co-author of "Office Mate: The Employee Handbook for Finding – and Managing – Romance on the Job." "Our social contacts come at work. It makes logical sense that you're going to date people there."
Yet even broad-minded employers often frown on the kind of supervisor-subordinate relationship Mr. Turner and his wife, Lauren, maintained. Some now require couples to sign "love contracts" to protect the company from sexual harassment lawsuits in case a relationship ends badly.
Such contracts are primarily limited to executive-level employees. "I don't think you're talking about two people in a call center," Ms. Olen says. Although no one can track the number of these documents, some employment lawyers see their popularity increasing. They are even part of a plotline on the TV sitcom "The Office."
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