Consensual Relationship Agreements Instructor University Name April 27, 2012 Introduction Recently the Equal Opportunity Employment Opportunity Commission announced a new trend emerging: the growth in harassment charges. With more women and men working together now than at any other time in history it is important to have guidelines to clearly distinguish when sexual advances are wanted and welcomed versus used as a means of control, embarrassment, belittlement, or inappropriate behavior…
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Establishing a baseline of individual freedom means that adults must be allowed to enter into consensual relationships with other adults (Eichner). States must not delegitimize relationships among consenting adults and relationships should be recognized. Sexual harassment litigation fears means more and more companies are scrambling to create appropriate policies to consider, define, and somehow regulate the demonstration of these relationships in the workplace (Powers, p. 20). Consensual Relationship Contracts Anywhere from 33% to as high as 70% of company employees have at one time or another admitted to being involved in an office relationship. Work provides opportunities for socialization among men and women that would not be possible anywhere else. Togetherness occurs naturally in a comfortable and mutual environment and the mutual grounding of close friendship will frequently develop into romance. Employees often rush easily into these relationships despite factors, such as the possibility the relationship may not work out, the organizational environment may prove to be too rigid or the affair would invoke the criticism of fellow employees. Workplace romance trends have been increasing for several reasons, namely, increased demands on free time, more women in the workplace and in management positions, and an increase in positions requiring travel and team projects. Guidelines should be implemented which accept the inevitable realities of on the job romance while also providing the organization with protection from the problems of relationship fall-outs. One half of all work place relationships are estimated to end in marriage, studies show that environments where peers are likeminded in respect to education, life experience, and work ability are more likely to be compatible and have lasting relationships. Relationships that break down and are not resolved amicably can leave employers facing a variety of possible claims. Issues, such as a failed transfer of one employee after a relationship, could lead to litigation claims. Homosexual relationships could lead to sexual orientation discrimination claims if the individuals are not treated equally. Some employers choose to ban relationships among employees in order to avoid these issues through non-fraternization policies (Reeves, p. 20). Bans, such as this, run the risk of breeching human rights policy and are not likely to be effective considering the amount of relationships that now begin in the work place. Some employers are using contacts or consensual relationship agreements which require disclosure of a relationship, thus, giving the employer the opportunity to relocate one employee or the other to avoid conflict. These contracts have an uncertain legal status and enforceability has been tested numerous times in legal tribunals and lawsuits. Consensual relationship contracts are used in order to avoid sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuits, especially when relationships involve employees who are on different levels of authority. The majority of companies do not have policies in place regarding consensual
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