Anti-Dating Policies: A New Era for C-Level Execs
When McDonald’s learned its 52-year-old CEO Steve Easterbrook was “Lovin’ It” with a subordinate, it quickly fired him and forced his resignation from the board of directors. This was not a matter of sexual harassment or a superior forcing themselves onto a subordinate. The CEO and the subordinate entered into a consensual dating relationship. And, it’s not just McDonald’s that prohibits employee fraternization. In the last few years, even CEO/C-Level execs at Intel, Hewlett Packard, Boeing, Priceline and BestBuy have been fired for dating company employees. In the #MeToo era, the trend is for companies to adopt anti-dating policies against romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinates.
A study by the Society for Human Resource Management determined that approximately half of U.S. companies have instituted formal policies against certain consensual relationships, or anti-dating policies. This total is up 25% from 2005.
And, CEOs and other C-suite execs, no matter how valuable to the company, are no longer untouchable in today’s environment. That’s because if a company ignores violations by its C-suite leaders, how can it enforce any of its policies against the rest of its employees?
Employees dating one another, even managers dating employees they supervise isn’t illegal. However, most employment attorneys advise companies to adopt strict “no-dating” policies (anti-fraternization policies). Such policies reduce sexual harassment claims and allegations of favoritism. And, even if a consensual relationship doesn’t lead to a sexual harassment or hostile environment claim, it can create workplace tension. Such situations could arise when the “couple” has a disagreement at work, brings their “off-site” relationship squabbles to work or they break up.
Implementing and Enforcing Anti-Dating Policies
Companies concerned about fraternization issues can customize their policies to meet their goals. For example, anti-dating policies can permit dating by co-workers, but prohibit managers/direct reports from dating.
Companies adopting anti-dating should distribute the policy in their Code of Conduct or employee handbook. And, they should regularly remind employees of the policy. Finally, companies should consistently enforce such a policy.
Rogge Dunn Group’s business and employment attorneys have extensive experience assisting companies when they implement policies to reduce workplace liability. Connect with us to discuss how proactive policies can reduce risk and limit employers’ liability.