Romance at Work: 5 Important Facts

By Rachel Beck, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — It's natural to find love at work. It's where people spend most of their time.

But an office romance can be risky for the lovebirds and the companies they work for.

Many employers have rules to ensure that the dating game doesn't affect the bottom line. They're concerned that distracted sweethearts will fall behind in their work. They're also concerned that a relationship that goes sour could lead to sexual harassment charges.

Some companies prohibit romantic relationships altogether. So, an employee who falls in love could get fired.

With Valentine's Day ahead, love is in the air. Here are five things every employee should know about workplace romances:

WHAT'S LOVE?

There isn't one way to define a relationship. Everyone has a different view, including your employer.

Some bosses believe a one-time fling after the annual holiday party counts as a relationship, especially if a supervisor and subordinate are involved. Others might argue that it doesn't matter unless there's a longer-lasting courtship.

Employees may contend that what they do in their personal lives shouldn't be their employer's business. But it can be if it presents a financial or legal risk to the company, says Michael Casey, a partner at the Miami law firm Epstein Becker & Green.

"The way employers see relationships at work focuses on the legal and morale issues. They worry about charges of favoritism and harassment," Casey says.

The concern is that office romances can lead to workplace distractions, and not just for the lovers. Co-workers may complain if a colleague who's involved with a supervisor gets a promotion or is given coveted assignments. The resentment is likely to have an impact on teamwork and productivity.

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