What to do when Cupid's arrow strikes at work?

In Roman mythology, Cupid is the god of love, son of Venus. But one look at that cherubic boy holding a bow and arrow should alert you that he may be bringing more trouble than love to the workplace. So can you or should you keep romance out of the workplace? How can you address legitimate liability concerns without invading employees' privacy? And what should you do to protect yourself so Cupid does not wreak havoc in the workplace?

Workplace romance is nothing new. Indeed, workplace relationships can be positive and fulfilling for those involved, and many people have fallen in love in the workplace and sustained lasting relationships. But there are potential downsides. Continuing development of federal and state employment laws coupled with the trend toward longer hours on the job can make the workplace a breeding ground (no pun intended) for claims of unlawful harassment, discrimination, favoritism, retaliation and conflicts of interest.

The problem with workplace romance is you can do little to prevent it because no rules or policies can stop emotions. Yet recent court decisions plainly place greater responsibility on employers to prevent the often negative effects of workplace romances. Such relationships not only have practical implications for workplace morale, productivity and perceptions of fairness but also have potential legal consequences. You should take steps to address workplace romances well in advance.

What are the risks?

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