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Should your company ban romantic relationships in the workplace?

December 10, 2017 at 2:46 pm

Depending on the nature of the relationship, how you handle workplace romances is mostly up to your organization’s preference or policy.

If the employees do not report to one another and are engaged in a mutually consenting relationship, no action may be needed. Some organizations prefer to ban office dating, but I find this difficult or impossible to enforce and often not worth the time and effort. It can also create a Big Brother-like feeling, reducing trust between management and employees, and often forcing relationships to be kept secret. Some employers choose to use a “Consensual Relationship Agreement” when they know employees are dating, which establishes that both parties are part of the relationship by choice, and lays out some ground rules for how to behave.

Instead of either of these, I recommend communicating to the employees your relevant workplace policies (e.g. harassment) and your expectations regarding behavior in the workplace, and leaving it at that. In most cases, the less time management spends delving into employees’ personal lives, the better.

That said, I do recommend prohibiting managers from dating subordinate employees as a standard policy, even if layers of management separate them. There could be issues with preferential treatment and complaints of harassment if the relationship ends. These situations could expose your organization to increased risk.

If you decide to prohibit all employee dating, be careful when wording your policy. Outright “non-fraternization” policies have the potential to violate Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees’ rights to engage in concerted activity. Courts have found that use of the word “fraternize” without additional explanation could potentially discourage employees from exercising their rights, so I recommend language that specifically refers to “employee dating.”

– Information from HRSnapshot

Categories: Uncategorized.

Is serving alcohol at the holiday party a liability? If so, what can you do to protect yourselves?

December 7, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Take precautions when offering alcohol at your company parties.

A recent HR Snapshot topic might prove helpful to businesses this holiday season. Is the serving of alcohol at your holiday parties a potential liability? The short answer is: Yes.

But let’s take a look at the answer a little more in-depth.

Partygoers who overindulge could cause an accident at or after the party, or they might act in ways that violate your harassment policy. There are steps you can take to protect both yourself and your employees. Here are some practices you might consider:

Ahead of Time

  • Employers may be liable for employee misconduct and negligence when the employee is acting “in the course and scope of employment,” so make these kinds of events optional and clearly communicate that attendance is neither expected nor required.
  • Don’t plan to have any work-related activities at the event. To further support the non-work nature of the event, hold it off-site and outside of regular business hours, and allow employees to bring a guest.
  • Set expectations around respectful behavior and encourage employees to drink responsibly. Remind employees that company policies, including harassment and other conduct policies, apply at the event.
  • Have a plan to ensure that no minors or visibly intoxicated attendees are served alcohol. If possible, hire professional servers (or hold the event at a staffed facility) who will, as part of their job, politely refuse to serve anyone who they perceive has had enough to drink.

At the Event

  • Provide ample food and non-alcoholic beverages, both for safety reasons and so non-drinkers know you’ve given them consideration.
  • Offer a cash bar where employees purchase the alcohol. This will reduce the likelihood of a claim that the employer provided alcohol directly to employees. It will also reduce consumption.
  • Provide employees with a set number of drink tickets so that each attendee is limited in the number of alcoholic drinks they will be served.
  • Plan for how employees who have been drinking will get home. This may involve providing taxis or public transit options at no cost to the employees, arranging for group transportation, or encouraging employees to designate a driver at the beginning of the event.
  • Even if you don’t want or plan to provide taxi service, don’t think twice about calling and paying for one if an intoxicated employee has no way home other than driving themselves. To facilitate this, someone from management can be designated to stay until the end and maintain their own sobriety to ensure that everyone gets home safe.

While these steps will not eliminate all the risks, they can help reduce liability and help your employees celebrate the year and their achievements safely and responsibly.

Categories: Uncategorized.

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