Office Romance

Topics: Privacy, Privacy law, Employment Pages: 7 (2402 words) Published: April 9, 2011
It is not morally acceptable for employers to make generalized rules against dating in the workplace. Such rules violate the employee’s personal rights and may act against a company’s best interests. There are morally and legally acceptable exceptions, however, when specific romantic relationships, such as those between supervisors and subordinates, are likely to create a financial and legal liability for a company, and hamper the company from conducting business. In these cases, it would be morally irresponsible not to have a specific policy forbidding the romantic relationships in question. The Privacy Spectrum

The right to privacy can be seen as a spectrum with each end of the spectrum representing positions with which very few reasonable people would find fault. On one end are statements such as one expects privacy when showering at one’s own home. On the opposite end are statements such as one should not expect to remain unobserved when sitting in a sports stadium in full view of 35,000 people and several television camera crews. However, most privacy questions fall somewhere within this spectrum. Is it a violation of privacy to open someone else’s present that was accidentally left on your doorstep? (McArther 2001) Reasonable arguments could be made both for and against this scenario creating an invasion of privacy. Privacy Common Sense

A typical company cannot morally or legally forbid someone from joining a local community organization, such as the Lyon’s Club. If an employee is participating in the Lyon’s club, it is likely being done on personal time and has no direct effect on the workplace. If this person casually mentions to their co-workers that they are a member of the Lyon’s Club and invites them to come to a meeting, it is unlikely this would be an issue for anyone involved. If, however, the employee repeatedly asks co-workers to join the club, left literature on their desks, or acted in some other persistent and intrusive manner, the company now has an obligation to mitigate the situation. Employees have a right not to be harassed at work, and employers therefore have an obligation to ensure that employers are not harassed while at work. Companies should, and usually do, have policies forbidding the type of soliciting and harassing behavior engaged in by this Lyon’s Club member. If the employer is made aware of the situation, by either complaints or observation, the employer has the moral and legal right, as well as the obligation, to intercede on behalf of the employees and discipline the offending employee. In addition to protecting the rights of the employees, the harassment is likely affecting productivity in the workplace – employees are dealing with their co-workers harassment, which is time away from performing their jobs. Morale may also be an issue, as employees become frustrated with their work environment. Should the employer have the right to ask the offending employee to quite the Lyon’s Club? Does the employer have that right? From the practical standpoint, an employee that is willing to harass and solicit fellow employees has other issues besides participation in a relatively benign community club. Therefore, if the employee did quit the club, the behavior may simply reoccur in relation to a different personal activity, such as a church or a team sport. The employer is more likely to achieve the desired result – a change in the behavior at work – by evaluating the situation and making disciplinary and educational actions as deemed appropriate. If the employer does desire the employee to quit the Lyon’s Club, is that a right the employer has? After all, the behavior is affecting the work environment, which the employer has a responsibility to protect. The courts have determined that an employer can violate a person’s rights if it is a necessary means to a compelling business interest. (Gold, 2006) Protecting the employees from solicitation and harassment at work is a compelling business...
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