From the Hotline: Public Displays of Affection in the Office

Question: How should we address the distraction of two employees who are having an affair and engaging in public displays of affection that others are talking about?

Answer: This response assumes that your company does not have a policy prohibiting employee dating and/or that your policy only addresses/prohibits supervisor-subordinate romantic relationships in the workplace (and these two employees are not in that type of reporting relationship). With that said, an employer has an absolute right to establish and enforce guidelines relating to appropriate behavior while at work. In most business establishments, public displays of affection between employees would not be considered appropriate.

Some employers establish “search mp3” where employees in a personal relationship certify that it is completely consensual, and the document reinforces the employer’s appropriate behavioral norms while at work and outlines the behaviors expected at work if the relationship between the two parties terminates. While there are differing opinions as to the optimal use of this type of “contract” as it relates to personal privacy issues, the employer’s ability to determine work behaviors is clear. If you would like to implement this type of document, please contact us for a sample and have it reviewed for compliance prior to implementation. As with all policies or agreements, be consistent in your application and enforcement of the rules.

With respect to your immediate situation, meet with the employees involved and outline the behavior that you have seen, explain that this is distracting to others (employees/customers) and reinforce the company standards for appropriate behavior as well as the consequences for failure to curtain the public displays of affection. Implement the “love contract” if appropriate.