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Have a Legal Question?
To avoid sexual harassment issues and misunderstandings among employees, more companies are developing policies for interoffice dating. A well-written statement helps to clarify boundaries and expectations on what is considered to be acceptable behavior between colleagues within the same organization.
What if my company has no policy?
In the absence of this type of policy, or if it has not been widely distributed or explained, employees are likely to be uncertain about whether they are allowed to date coworkers. In such situations, it is usually a good idea to check with a supervisor or the personnel department. If employees assume that a relationship is acceptable and do not inquire about its appropriateness, they may end up breaching de facto protocol even if no written policy exists.
However, this does not mean that any rules have been broken, especially if pertinent rules do not exist or are not generally understood by all employees. If an employee knew that dating was unacceptable but continued to see a coworker anyway, that might constitute a breach of verbal policy. Typically, an employee’s unacceptable conduct should be discussed with a supervisor to clarify the problem. If the employee subsequently and knowingly continues to violate company standards or policies, disciplinary action may follow.
In the situation cited here, an employee explains that the office has no rule against interoffice dating. Therefore, when it was discovered that two coworkers were indeed in a social or dating relationship, one was fired, while the other was not. Without further details to explain why one person was let go and the other retained, it appears that discrimination or imbalanced discipline may have occurred. If both employees are in a dating relationship that the company frowns on, why was only employee terminated?
Getting all the details
Is there more to the story? For example, did the fired employee date several coworkers and receive a verbal warning without a written policy in place? If so, maybe that is the basis for termination. If not, the matter needs to be further explored to determine if discrimination occurred, and if so, why? If it turns out the fired employee was unjustly terminated, there may be recourse for being rehired or some type of compensation, based on the circumstances.
Contact one of our dedicated attorneys at Goldman & Ehrlich by phone 312.332.6733 or online today.