This Toolkit was reviewed in February 2013 by our editorial team as part of ongoing maintenance. This Toolkit is also continually monitored for any necessary changes due to legal or practice developments.
Resources to assist an employer in minimizing the risk of workplace sexual harassment and defending against related claims under Title VII.
While romantic relationships between employees are widely accepted, they are fraught with legal risks for employers. Chief among these risks are claims of sexual harassment (www.practicallaw.com/2-508-3174). Statistics released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (www.practicallaw.com/4-501-5853) (EEOC) show that sexual harassment continues to be a significant problem in the workplace. The EEOC reports that in 2011 they received 11,364 sexual harassment complaints and recovered damages totaling over $52.3 million for aggrieved employees. This amount only includes cases that were settled with the EEOC and does not reflect monetary benefits obtained through litigation. Failure to proactively address sexual harassment in the workplace can result not only in costly litigation for an employer, but also in:
Loss of productivity.
Damage to employee morale.
High turnover rates.
In addition to sexual harassment claims, workplace romance gone awry can lead to retaliation (www.practicallaw.com/6-503-9612) claims and, in worst-case scenarios, workplace violence. Other legal risks related to employee romantic relationships include sexual favoritism claims by third parties or participants. Even happy workplace romances can lead to disruption in the workplace and create conflicts of interest and other ethical problems. Employers can substantially limit sexual harassment liability and other risks associated with workplace romance by taking several precautions, including:
Understanding best practices to avoid sexual harassment claims.
Conducting regular sexual harassment prevention training.
Putting an effective workplace romance policy into place.
Using a "love contract" to document consensual relationships.
The Sexual Harassment Toolkit provides a number of resources to help employers minimize the risk of workplace sexual harassment and defend against sexual harassment claims.
For information about state law on harassment, see the State Q&A Tool under Related Content to the right.