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Survey shows many engage in office romances despite risks: Part I

Finding romance at the office has long been considered a bad idea, or at least a risky one. When things go wrong, awkward encounters with your ex are not the only consequence.

Both parties are at an increased risk of losing or having to leave their jobs. In some cases, a scorned ex-lover may file a sexual harassment lawsuit, especially if they had been dating a supervisor.

Yet Americans spend so much time at work that it is inevitable that some of us will fall for colleagues and coworkers. The website CareerBuilder.com recently released the results of a survey of 3,900 workers. According to the survey, 40 percent of respondents had dated a colleague at some point in their career. Of those, 10 percent have done so in the last year.

But there is sometimes a long-term reward that comes with the risk of office romance. According to survey results, 30 percent of respondents ended up marrying the person they started dating at work.

So if office romance is inevitable, is there a way to make it safer for both parties involved? Human Resources experts and employment attorneys say yes. Like other work endeavors, it comes down to rules, disclosure and filing the proper paperwork.

Experts say the primary rule is to avoid supervisor-supervisee relationships. In most of these relationships (but not all), the supervisor is usually male and the supervisee is female. If and when these relationships go bad, the supervisor is at a high risk for a sexual harassment lawsuit. The supervisee may claim she felt compelled to accept a request to go on a date.

She may also allege a hostile work environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment, which involves making employment or employment benefits contingent upon offering sex or sexual favors.

Check back later this week as we continue our discussion on safely navigating office romances.

Source: MSNBC, "Falling for the hottie in sales? Consider this," Susan Adams, Sept. 9, 2011

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