Business Owners – Could Interoffice Dating Leave You Liable?

liability insurance new yorkRoses are red,
Violets are blue,
Ignore interoffice dating,
And a lawsuit could be waiting for you.

As a business owner, you want to have a good rapport with your employees. But there’s a difference between giving them an extra day off around the holidays and exposing yourself and your company to claims of favoritism, discrimination, or sexual harassment.

A Workplace Options survey revealed that almost 85 percent of 18-29 year olds would date a co-worker and 40 percent would get involved with their supervisors.

If love is in the air at your office, a dark cloud in the form of a lawsuit could be, too! All it takes is one relationship to go sour or one unhappy employee who didn’t get the performance review or promotion that they wanted.

Employers who do not address co-worker relations could end up facing steep lawyer fees or the risking the reputation of the entire company. Not to mention, sexual harassment suits have the potential to escalate into a trial with a jaw-dropping verdict. The lowest amount awarded in the “8 Largest Sexual Harassment Verdicts in History” featured on Business Insider, was $7.1 million.

When it comes to sexual harassment claims, there are lots of gray areas. As the Florida Business Insight explains, “Statutes and case law provide broad guidelines but, ultimately, the definition is subjective and circular.” If an employee says that another employee acted in a way that was unwelcome, then it’s considered harassment.

As an employer you have three options when it comes to interoffice dating. You can adopt a policy prohibiting interoffice dating completely. You can adopt a policy that simply requires employees to disclose relationships so that they can be documented. Or, you can adopt a policy that allows interoffice dating but not within the chain of authority.  Doing nothing is not one of the options.

No matter how you decide to address interoffice dating at your workplace, insurance will be your only protection when you are forced to hire a lawyer to defend yourself against allegations. Make sure you have the right General Liability Insurance to cover employment-related claims such as discrimination, wrongful termination, or sexual harassment.

Every office should also avail itself of sexual-harassment awareness training. This training can be offered for all employees, managers and those who are in management training.  Lamb Financial has helped facilitate sexual-harassment awareness training for our clients and we can help you decide on policies that can reduce your risk.



Photo via Raul Souza / Shutterstock

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