Many Kansas companies attempting to avoid exposure to legal claims based on sexual harassment employ anti-fraternization policies. While these policies can have substantial advantages, they should be carefully structured to avoid undue limitations on the rights of association or assembly particularly in the context of the rights of employees to organize. On one hand, the policies should regulate socializing and romantic relationships between employees, which can lead to potential claims of sexual harassment. On the other hand, the businesses should be careful here to avoid lawsuits based on limiting the association and assembly rights of employees.
Disallow Fraternization between Employees of Different Ranks: While co-workers dating or socializing may not be as likely to result in sexual harassment claims, there is a substantial risk when those at different organizational levels engage in romantic relationships. The relationship may eventually end badly and result in one party claiming that the relationship was not consensual because of the power or influence that the officer, manager or supervisor exercised over the employee. Many sexual harassment claims involve allegations that what appeared to be a consensual relationship was the product of coercion because of the influence that the person in the greater position of power within the organization was able to exercise over the party pursuing the sexual harassment lawsuit.
Require Written Disclosure: If the company has a policy of mandating that those who are involved in personal relationships outside the workplace provide written disclosure of the relationship, this provides evidence the company can use that the relationship was consensual. Again, this type of policy should be aimed at those in similar positions rather than those that differ in their authority within the business.
Have Employees Sign Off on a Written Anti-Fraternization Policy: While sometimes an anti-fraternization policy will simply drive romantic relationships in the workplace underground, a business that has employees sign off that they are aware of the company’s anti-fraternization policy may be in a better position if the relationship goes bad and results in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Install Effective Grievance and Self-Harassment Policies: On the corporate level, Sexual Harassment is a very tough issue to combat. The best approach to avoiding sexual harassment claims that arise out of workplace romantic relationships is to have an effective and well-documented procedure for employees to seek redress regarding sexual harassment claims. The process should be designed to encourage employees who claim they are being victimized to come forward and deal promptly with such claims.