Workplace dating agreements

The federal industrial laws about workplace agreements have changed a number of times in recent years.

Before the Work Choices laws came into effect in March 2006, workplace agreements were called Certified Agreements (agreements between an employer and a group of employees) and Australian Workplace Agreements or AWAs (agreements between an employer and an individual employee).

Just last month, Gary Friedman, the chief executive of Restoration Hardware, stepped down in the middle of the company's public offering. A couple years ago, Hewlett-Packard's chief executive, Mike Hurd, resigned amid accusations of falsifying expense reports to hide a personal relationship with an independent contractor.

The reason: an internal inquiry into his relationship with a 26-year-old female employee. As companies grow and add employees, you will often see signs of budding workplace relationships.

But a lot of companies don't let the rank and file decide--they adopt policies that ban or limit workplace dating--all in the name of lowering liability.

Enforcing these policies can take their toll on a company. Earlier this year, Best Buy's chief executive, Brian Dunn, stepped down after an investigation by the board discovered he had shown "extremely poor judgment" with a 29-year-old female employee.

As the old saying goes "you don't dip your pen in the company ink." In other words, you shouldn't get into a dating or sexual relationship with a co-worker.

But consider this: according to a recent Workplace Options survey, nearly 85% of 18-29 year olds would have a romantic relationship with a co-worker, compared to just over 35% for 30-46 year olds and about 30% of 47-66 year olds.

The Fair Work laws which came into effect in 2008 created Individual Transitional Employment Agreements or ITEAs (special individual agreements which could only be made up until the end of 2009) and in July 2009 changed Collective Agreements to Enterprise Agreements.

Chas Rampenthal is general counsel and vice president of product development at Legal Zoom.

He's also a former talk radio host (KTLK AM 1150 at Clear Channel) and an entrepreneur himself, as the founder of Legal Endeavor.

Insights for Employers Over the course of my twenty-three year legal career, I have provided legal advice and counsel in well over two hundred claims of sexual harassment.

In none of those situations did the sexual harassment claim arise out of an office romance where the two employees involved had previously disclosed the romance to the employer.

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