Workplace harrassment and dating

Quick backstory: We didn't meet on the job — we were dating for almost four years before we started working together (which, by the way, wasn't planned … But for about 11 months, we sat three cubes apart from one another and kept our relationship under wraps. People sometimes act differently at work than they do in their personal life. No need to send a blast email with "the news" of you and your cube-mate's new relationship.

But they happen all the time, and when they do, there are three possible outcomes: The relationship turns sour and your reputation and career take a beating; it ends, but you're both mature and cordial and don't let the breakup affect your work; or A survey by Career Builder last year revealed that nearly 40% of employees admitted to having a romantic relationship with a coworker, and almost one-third of office relationships result in marriage. We are getting married in two months.) It's up to you to figure out whether pursuing an office relationship is worth the possible consequences, good and bad. My situation was unique because we were already a couple before we started working together — but generally that isn't the case, and Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job," suggests you try being friends in-and-outside the office before you make any moves.

While the idea of having an office sweetheart may boost some employees’ morale, romantic relationships in the workplace can create employee dissension and legal liability for employers.

Relationships Between Supervisors and Subordinates While any relationship between employees may cause problems in the workplace, the level of exposure to employers increases when a romantic relationship develops between a supervisor and subordinate.

Harassment is a type of employment discrimination involving unwanted, inappropriate, or hostile behavior in the workplace.

While workplace relationships are not considered harassment per se, it is possible for workplace relationships, especially ones of a romantic nature, to lead to situations that give rise to harassment claims.

Is it legal to fully prohibit employees from dating one another?

Or does that overstep boundaries and put too much restriction on an employee’s personal life?

Even a consensual relationship, if it goes sour, can result in unwelcome advances, stalking, or other predatory conduct.

Legally speaking, in most states an employer can enact a policy that prohibits employees from dating one another.

(Check your state and local laws for exceptions, which do exist and are usually centered on employee privacy or limitations for employers on prohibiting nonwork activities.) However, even if legal, banning any work romantic involvement can come with its own consequences.

Such relationships can have actual and resonating effects on the workplace because of the power inequalities in the positions and the insecurity the relationship may create for other employees, especially those who report to the supervisor.

In one case, the Eleventh Circuit found that a public employer’s interest in discouraging intimate association between supervisors and subordinates was so critical to the effective functioning of the employer that it outweighed the employee’s interest in the relationship.