LOVE (AND LAWSUITS) IN THE AIR: Employers Best Practices to Minimize Liability this Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day approaching, we are reminded that everyone loves to watch a love story unfold, from Jim and Pam of The Office, to Sam and Diane on Cheers.  However, those on-screen sparks do not always translate seamlessly to reality. Romance in the workplace is often a complicated issue for employers for a number of reasons, ranging from awkward break-ups between co-workers to budding romances between supervisors and subordinates.  If these issues are not properly addressed, employers may find themselves subject to litigation.

Here are five things that employers should keep in mind ahead of Valentine's Day (and, really, all year):

1. Outline the Boundaries of Relationships in the Workplace

According to a 2022 survey compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management, around 33% of people have been involved in a workplace romance, which is an increase of over 6% since before the pandemic. With this statistic in mind, banning relationships is often impractical.  Instead, implement rules surrounding the dos and don’ts of relationships in the office.  Consider requiring employees to disclose relationships with a co-worker and prohibiting relationships between supervisors and supervisees. Prohibit unprofessional conversations and PDA while on company time.

2. Review Your Personnel Policies

Get ahead of potential pitfalls associated with workplace romances by ensuring you have the proper policies and procedures in place to address issues that may arise. If you do not have policies concerning inter-office relationships, sexual harassment, and retaliation, and procedures that set forth how employees make complaints, create them.  If you already have these policies and procedures, review them and ensure they are compliant with State and Federal workplace standards.  Once these policies and procedures are in place, make sure they are distributed to employees, implemented, and consistently enforced.

3. Take All Complaints Seriously

When an employee comes to you with complaints of a hostile work environment, discrimination, or sexual harassment, take it seriously. Conduct an investigation into the complaints and take necessary action. 

4. Implement Employee Training

Provide training to your employees to set expectations, and make employees aware of what conduct is and is not allowed in the workplace. Training is also a good opportunity to remind employees of the reporting mechanisms in place for complaints, keeping open communication a priority in your business.

5. Promote a Company Culture of Civility and Respect

Taking a look at the bigger picture, it is important to encourage a workplace that is a safe and productive space for all employees. Setting boundaries for workplace relationships, implementing policies and training, and taking complaints seriously will all help promote such a culture.  Promoting professionalism and respect is a service to employees and employers alike, aiding with staff efficiency and retention. 


Not every relationship makes it to the series finale.  Employers should use Valentine’s Day as a reminder to review their policies and practices in order to be prepared for the issues that may arise with workplace relationships.  Employers should consult with their legal counsel on these issues. 

For more information on workplace issues such as personnel policies, employee training, investigations into complaints of misconduct, and discrimination and harassment claims, contact Nicole M. Grzeskowiak or Christy L. Cushing or call us at 732-545-4717.