There’s never a rest for the small-business-owning weary. Congratulations to the small businesses that made it through the holiday party season without incident. Now, another happy occasion approaches, one also potentially fraught with legal trouble—Valentine’s Day.
“Employers should always be on high alert, and at the first hint of something bad, nip it in the bud, immediately,” said Elizabeth Milito, senior executive counsel with the NFIB Small Business Legal Center. “Despite all the recent media exposure on sexual harassment and misconduct, there will always be those who need the message reinforced and reinforcing it at the workplace is the best place to start.” Milito recommends five steps to take.
- Understand your obligation to prevent harassment, including sexual harassment, in the workplace. Establish a policy and enforce it. NFIB provides a free model policy here.
- Be on high alert for supervisor-subordinate relationships. These can be among the most dangerous, legally, for employers. The relationship can lead to resentment among co-workers who feel that the employee dating the manager is being favored. And after the break-up, watch out! Be prepared to defend against discrimination claims from the jilted subordinate employee.
- Have an open-door policy. While it’s unrealistic to prohibit workplace dating, establish an open policy that makes it easy for employees to talk about these issues with you. So, if things go south, you’ll be the first to hear about it.
- PDA is a no-no in the office. Don’t be afraid to speak up and stop it. Call the couple into your office and say “Kristine and Tom, you need to be really careful on the PDA (personal display of affection) front. We can’t kiss and hug in the office.”
- Finally – be consistent. The same rules need to apply to everyone.
For more than 75 years, NFIB has been advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals. NFIB is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member-driven. Since our founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses and remains so today. For more information, please visit nfib.com.