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HR Alert: Avoiding Liability This Valentine’s Season

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Valentine’s Day is here which means love is in the air. And so are the risks associated with workplace romances!

We often remind New York employers the law is strict when it comes to sexual harassment at work. Unfortunately, even employees with good intentions can expose employers to risk. Here are a few classic situations to look out for:

  • The supervisor who’s flirting with a subordinate:  If one employee has some level of control over another employee, a consensual relationship easily can turn into quid pro quo harassment. On one hand, if a workplace romance is going well, it can lead to accusations of favoritism. If it isn’t going so well or the romance begins to fade, it can lead to harassment allegations.
  • Sexually suggestive comments and rumors in the workplace:  “Your legs look amazing in that dress!” “I heard Sara is sleeping with Jay.” The up-to-date standard in New York is that anything more than a “petty slight” or “trivial inconvenience” can result in employer liability.

Simply put, workplace romances increase the risk of sexual harassment claims. Employers should protect themselves by ensuring their sexual harassment prevention policies are:  (1) up to date and compliant with New York law; (2) circulated to all staff with receipt acknowledged in writing; and (3) posted in a conspicuous place in the workplace.

In addition, all employees must be trained on sexual harassment prevention every single year.

Depending on your workforce, now may be the perfect time to consider implementing a workplace dating policy. If you have questions about how to mitigate your organization’s risk, The Coppola Firm is here to help.

Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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