A consensual workplace or office romance is not, in itself, unlawful. Remember that to be considered sexual harassment, the conduct in question must be unwelcome. Of course, office romances are serious problems for most employers because the relationships often present more downside risk than upside gain.
Boy gets Girl
Sexual harassment might exist in the workplace as a result of favoritism that arises out of the workplace romance. For example, a supervisor may unfairly grant benefits to a sexual partner, forcing more difficult work on co-workers. Such conduct can constitute sexual harassment.
Boy loses Girl
More often than not, a workplace romance turns sour, which can also lead to a harassment claim. For example, the subordinate may break off the relationship, but the supervisor may continue to make overtures. While that conduct may have once been welcome, it becomes harassing behavior the minute it becomes unwelcome.
What is a Love Contract?
A “love contract” is an agreement that an employer asks romantically involved employees to sign (also called a “consensual relationship agreement”). The point is to protect the employer from sexual harassment or other claims. The contract acknowledges the existence of the relationship, outlines that the employer will not tolerate sexually harassing conduct and requires that a party inform the employer if an harassing behavior is occuring.