The Globe and Mail (see here) is reporting today on a recent article from Forbes.com (see here) about so-called “love contracts” in the workplace. The name alone does not necessarily lead to the correct conclusion as to the actual purpose of these contracts: love contracts are meant to be signed between two romantically-involved coworkers stating that their relationship is consensual and that they understand the employer’s policy on harassment.
Indeed, office romances, while not uncommon, can make life difficult for employees and employers alike when they head south. Some time ago, my colleague, Gabriel Granatstein, wrote a column for the Montreal Gazette (see here) regarding the the sensitive nature and possible legal consequences of workplace romances:
[…] the consequences of a relationship ending badly have also resulted in legitimate claims of harassment where one of the parties to that relationship has, in some way, taken out their pain or frustration on their ex-significant other. Employers are required by the Labour Standards Act to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment of any kind. Moreover, cases of harassment often involve managers and their subordinates. This kind of power imbalance will be viewed harshly by our tribunals if the subordinate alleges harassment by her or his superior.
From a legal standpoint, employees may become more sensitive to issues surrounding romance in the workplace; however, they might vigourously object to or contest an employer’s involvement at any level in their personal lives. Once the relationship ends and a claim for harassment is filed, the contract may show that the employer was taking reasonable means to prevent harassment, but it certainly does not prevent the employee from making the complaint in the first place. I look forward to seeing how this attempt to contractualize a very emotional and subjective element of an employee’s life plays out.