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Office Romance Can Lead to the Altar or to HR

by Feb 14, 2013, 1:53 am ET

business couple romance - freedigitalLove is all around us today. And not just in the hearts and cupids and balloons that decorate countless offices.

CareerBuilder says there’s a pretty good chance some of your co-workers are dating each other. Four in 10 workers have had — or are having — an office romance, according to the company’s annual survey of 4,216 workers. And 30% of them have married an office mate.

For human resource managers, such news is more heartache than heart throb.

“Relationships between co-workers can, and often do, end in breakups. And these breakups can be nasty,” says Mary Hladio, president of Ember Carriers Leadership Group.  “Worst-case scenario, these breakups lead the rejected partner to file a sexual harassment claim against the employer. Businesses still have to protect themselves and their employees through clearly defined company protocol.”

That’s enough to cause HR managers to lose sleep. When they involve a boss and a subordinate or, worse, a direct report, that’s when things get downright dicey. CareerBuilder’s Valentine’s Day survey says 16% of those who owned up to an office romance reported having an affair with their boss.

“These relationships may spark favoritism charges and evoke concerns about breached confidentiality,” warns Hladio, who told Investor’s Business Daily that many companies discourage office romance generally.

That’s gentle advice compared to what employment attorney Kathleen McKenna told Forbes. A romance involving a boss and a subordinate is “criminally stupid.” If it happens anyway, she says they both should sign a “cupid contract” declaring the relationship is consensual and that the both understand the company’s sexual harassment policy.

They also should advise HR of the relationship.

How can you tell if workers are involved with each other? Allbusiness offered 15 ways to tell, declaring that if workers avoid meeting each other’s eyes, they never leave work together (or arrive together?), they both start putting in overtime — at the same time — and their vacation and sick days match up, well, they’re probably having an affair.

CareerBuilder also found that employees in the leisure and hospitality industry, leads the top five industries for office romances, coming in higher than the national average. That’s probably not much of a surprise; workers in that industry tend to be younger and work in environments that are more social in nature.

But coming in second and third respectively were IT workers and those in the financial sector. Engineers and accountants. Who would have guessed?

Image courtesy of  stockimages /

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks John. I met my wife when we were both working on a very short-term assignment after I had just finished a long one. If my preceding assignment had gone a week more or a week less, I never would have met Elizabeth. After 21 years of marriage and two kids, I think it may have worked….

    Happy Heart Day, ‘Cruitaz!