News & Announcements

Valentine’s Day and Workplace Relationships

Posted Tuesday, February 11, 2020 6:25 am

Valentine’s Day is coming up.  Love is in the air . . . but is there a place for it in the workplace?

United Airlines recently settled a “revenge porn” sexual harassment lawsuit arising out of a workplace relationship.  A United pilot was in a relationship with a United flight attendant for four years, during which time the flight attendant consented to the pilot taking some private photos and videos.  The pilot, however, posted online lewd images of her without her consent.  Allegedly, the flight attendant reported it multiple times to United, but the airline failed to prevent and correct the pilot’s behavior, and permitted the pilot to retire with full benefits.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) sued United, who ended up settling for $321,000 plus attorneys’ fees.

This case serves as a reminder about the importance of company policies and training on workplace relationships and sexual harassment.  Now is a good time to review company policies and ensure supervisors are properly trained.  HEC members who do not yet have a policy can review sample policies in HEC’s Guide to Preparing and Employee Handbook and Sample Handbook Policy Statements, available here.  Additionally, if your supervisors have not already attended HEC’s Fundamentals of Supervision Series (or if it’s time for a refresher), register for upcoming sessions here.

Here are some additional tips for Valentine’s Day:

  • Some people seem to think Valentine’s Day gives them permission to express their love in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. Remind employees about your harassment and workplace relationship policies, including how to report harassment.
  • Remind managers to be cognizant of the fact that not everyone thinks Valentine’s Day is a day worth celebrating, and to be on the lookout for signs of unwelcome behavior.
  • Gifts on Valentine’s Day tend to have romantic implications and are generally not the best idea in the workplace, particularly if such gifts are only given to select individuals. If a manager wants to celebrate the holiday, suggest food for the entire department to share.
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