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

Earlier this week, we wrote about the results of a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com. In a survey of 3,900 workers, 40 percent said they have dated a colleague at some point in their careers. Ten percent have done so in the last year, and 30 percent ended up marrying their office flame.

But office romances come with a lot of risk, experts say. If (or when) things go sour, the company may face a sexual harassment lawsuit or claims of a hostile work environment. Additionally, the fallout of a bad breakup may force either or both employees out of their jobs.

Nonetheless, office romances are here to stay. Human resources experts and employment attorneys say there are ways to make the practice safer for everyone. If dating someone at the office, it is better to date someone in another division than someone in a neighboring cubicle.

In our last post, we also said it is very risky to engage in a supervisor-supervisee relationship. But if such a relationship proves irresistible, there are ways to mitigate the risk to the company and to your own job.

One employment attorney says that these couples should write and sign a "cupid contract." This makes it clear that both parties understand the rules of the company's sexual harassment policy, and that they are both choosing to engage in a consensual relationship.

The author of a book on managing office romance agrees with that advice. She says: "Set some ground rules you can use if the relationship flames out. It's like a prenup for an office romance." She adds that the partner in a higher position of authority should report the relationship to the human resources department.

Experts will likely continue to say that office relationships are a bad idea. At the same time, they realize that such relationships will happen. Those who find themselves in a relationship at work must protect themselves and the company by following the proper rules and procedures. If they don't, they may lose their job or find themselves involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

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

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