Romantic relationships in the workplace are risky. When an employee is dating the boss, that employee may receive favorable treatment, which will not sit well with colleagues. You also have to consider the fact that you are dating the boss, which means he or she has authority over you during working hours. Will you be able to forget about work when you get home, if your partner was chastising you just a few hours earlier? It could make for some really uncomfortable conversation at the dinner table. Finally, if the relationship breaks down, have you considered how that will affect your working life?
Is it legal?
Setting aside the personal challenges you will face when dating your boss, you are probably wondering if there any legal barriers to a possible relationship. First of all, there is no law that prohibits dating a colleague, regardless of your respective positions with the company. However, that does not mean that law cannot come into play in other ways. Any potential relationship between you and a boss can give rise to a number of legal ramifications.
You should not enter into a relationship with your boss out of fear that you will lose your job. Any attempt on your superior’s part to coerce you into a relationship is harassment. If you are uncomfortable with his or her advances, you have a right to make a complaint without fear of reprisals. Similarly, if you do date your boss and then decide to end the relationship, your boss has no legal right to treat you unfairly as a result of you ending the relationship. That includes cutting your hours, unfairly passing you over for promotions, unnecessarily increasing your workload etc.
Even if the relationship is going well, there is a good chance that not everyone will support you. Other employees may feel that you are receiving preferential treatment because you are dating the boss. However, that does not give them the right to harass you because of your relationship. They do, of course, have the right to claim discrimination if they suspect that your relationship has resulted in them receiving unfair treatment or is affecting their ability to progress within the business. As there is an established relationship between you and your boss, discrimination becomes much easier to prove.
Can the company prevent us from dating?
The company is well within its legal rights to create a policy that limits or prohibits dating in the workplace. However, the degree to which the company can effectively enforce the policy is wholly reliant on the employees. When it comes to a legal dispute over colleagues dating, the definitions contained within the policy carry a lot of weight. It is up to the company to specify exactly what constitutes a relationship according to the policy. A court, in many situations, will decide that the policy does not adequately describe what is considered a breach of the terms.
So, the broader the policy, the harder it is for your company to enforce. That is why most companies prefer to put provisions in place where partners or married couples do not work together. This type of policy is most beneficial to all parties involved. You won’t have to work with your partner, which means you will have a healthy separation of home and work life, and it reduces the likelihood of other employees claiming discrimination. However, the policy does not guarantee that you, your boss, or other employees are completely protected from the potential fallout created by a manager dating a subordinate.
In addition to restricting partners from working together, many companies include what is referred to as a “Love Contract.” The contract aims to reinforce acceptable workplace behaviors, and already existing harassment and discrimination laws. You can expect to find such restrictions as “no public displays of affection.” However, it also deals with the more serious implications of pursuing a relationship with an employee. For instance, the boss is reminded that he or she cannot use their position to retaliate should the relationship end.
How do I raise a grievance?
If you need to raise a grievance because you believe your relationship is not in breach of company policy or the policy is not enforceable, you should first speak to your human resources department. It is always better to resolve any issues internally, before considering taking legal action. By the same token, if you do not wish to get involved in a relationship with your boss or an existing relationship turns sour, speak to your boss’s manager and make them aware of any harassment you have suffered as a result.
In all cases, make sure that any incidents or discussions are recorded and documents are signed and witnessed. You can also request copies of any recorded discussions, in case you should need them in the future. If you do not receive a satisfactory resolution to your grievance, you can also hire a labor and employment lawyer to represent you. Your rights under the law remain the same, whether you decide to date your boss or not. Make sure that you familiarize yourself with all applicable company policies and make the best decision for you.