Intimate relationships between coworkers are a common occurrence at any workplace. In one 2017 survey, 57% of respondents said that they have participated in an office romance, so it’s no surprise that employers would want to make sure that the office status quo is maintained. One way of doing so is to implement what’s known as a love contract—a relatively new type of document that records a consensual and voluntary relationship between two employees.
This post takes you through what a love contract means for both the employees and employer, and how it can protect both from any future problems.
What is a Love Contract?
A love contract is essentially the employer’s acknowledgement that they recognize that certain employees are engaged in an intimate relationship with each other and that their relationship is consensual.
The agreement usually includes a reminder for the employees about who to turn to for help should sexual harassment or conflict of interest become an issue.
In other words, the aim of the love contract is to help protect both the employer and employees from litigation caused by sexual harassment.
When the couple signs a love contract, it’s giving peace of mind to the employer that the employees in the relationship understand the company’s policies and that if the relationship ends, the employees can end it without fear that leaving will affect their career or work environment.
It should be noted that companies in the United States are required to have policies on sexual harassment and conflict of interest in the workplace—which can be outlined in an Employment Contract.
When an employee is hired the employer should provide information on how to access any and all policies on harassment, workplace relationships, and conflicts of interest so that the employee can review them.
What is Included in a Love Contract?
Since the goal of a love contract is to make sure both the employer and employees involved in the workplace relationship understand the relevant company policies, a love contract generally includes terms like:
- Confirmation that the relationship is voluntary and consensual. A line stating that the relationship between the two employees is voluntary and consensual.
- Review of anti-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment policies. The contract should include information on the company’s sexual harassment and discrimination policies, as well as information about who to contact for help.
- Information on inappropriate conduct policies. A policy covering inappropriate conduct might address the expectation that the relationship won’t affect others or the work itself, specifics on public displays of affection, assurances on professionalism (such as reminding the parties to address each other by name, and not a nickname or pet name).
Problems with a Love Contract
It’s all well and good to assume that getting employees to sign a love contract will solve any potential problems at work, but it’s not that simple.
Just because the employees signed a love contract doesn’t necessarily mean that the company or the employees are completely protected against litigation. There are many other factors that may come into play, such as if one of the employees were to claim that they were coerced into signing the contract.
Employees may also have good reason to try to keep their relationship secret. For example, a same-sex couple may not want to disclose their relationship for fear of scrutiny from their company or other employees.
Despite these shortcomings, if a love contract is presented in good faith, it’s never a bad idea to consider signing one just to show your company that you are willing to cooperate with their policies.
Do I Have to Sign My Employer’s Love Contract?
An employer can’t force an employee to sign a love contract, but the employee should be cautious about potentially jeopardizing their job if they don’t, especially if their job terms are under employment at will.
Although it might seem like an intrusion on your personal business, having written documentation of your relationship isn’t necessarily a bad thing for both you and your employer as it can protect both of you from potential issues in the future.
As an example, if your relationship ends on a sour note and your former partner files a sexual harassment claim against you or your company, the love contract could serve as documentation that the relationship was consensual at the time.
Keep in mind, you are not waiving your rights regarding harassment or providing concrete proof that just because you were in a relationship you were not sexually harassed, the love contract is documentation showing your company has done their due diligence in recognizing your relationship and how it may affect the workplace, if at all.
If employees develop an intimate relationship that stemmed from working together, it doesn’t mean that there will be an issue affecting the work environment or performance.
A love contract provides the opportunity for the couple to be transparent about their relationship (rather than hiding it while at work). It also helps employers to protect their employees and remind them of any workplace policies that may affect them.
Would you sign a love contract? Let us know in the comments!