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Consensual Relationship

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Consensual Relationship Agreements Consensual Relationship Contracts are often referred to as “Love Contracts.” These contracts are fairly new and have only recently been introduced into the workforce; they date back approximately to six or seven years ago. (Kellog forum) A consensual relationship agreement (CRA) is a written contract in which many companies are now presenting to employees who are romantically involved, within the same company. The contracts are often presented by human resources and the parties involved are asked to voluntarily sign them. Not to only protect the companies interest but the employees as well. The “Love Contracts” are being implemented by companies to assure that company policies and company conduct ethics are not breached by the romantic involvement between two of its employees. Workplace romances and relationships are becoming more commonplace as work hours are becoming longer and the concept of “team building” is become more widespread in the workforce. Most companies at some time used to have policies that prohibited interoffice dating. Now many experts warn against such policies stating that the outcome often concluded with employees rebelling against the policy and dating for the thrill. (Hellriegel, Slocum 65) Corporate culture had to become more flexible due to the change in the dynamics of their employees. In an environment where individuals with common interests are working in close proximity for 40 or more hours per week, an office hook-up becomes inevitable. (Hellriegel, Slocum 65) Vault.com performed a recent survey and found that 46 percent of the employees questioned had admitted to having and in-office romance at some point in their work history. An additional 13 percent admitted that although they had not, they would not be against having an office romance. Of those surveyed, 15 percent dated their boss and the other 15 percent dated a subordinate. (thedailybeast.com) In the instance that these relationships fail CRAs become beneficial. They “protect the company from harassment claims…and can assure that relationships won’t interfere with job performance,” says employment attorney Ashley Brightwell. (thedailybeast.com) I am currently employed with the Social Security Administration and currently there are no regulations in place regarding interoffice romances. I have personally known of a few interoffice hook-ups and one of them that have resulted in marriage. I have also witnessed the bad side of interoffice relationships that have led to the termination of one or both of the parties involved. A standard Consensual Relationship Agreement is implemented and signed would hold both parties responsible for their actions and reduce the possibility of a hostile work environment. The CRA is a contract that could quite possibly alleviate some of the office gossip, protect the agency, as well as the employees. The CRA, although, it is mostly executed to legally protect the agency it could also prove useful to the individuals involved. The “Love Contract” reminds employees that their relationship was consensual, which alleviates the assumption or allegation of sexual harassment. The contract makes the employee responsible for adhering to all company conduct, antidiscrimination, and anti-harassment policies. The agreement when signed makes both individuals liable for not allowing the relationship to interfere with their work performance. The written agreement also means that the parties involved will remain cordial and not indulge in behavior that would offend other co-workers. The most important part of the CRA is that it should state that neither party will engage in showing any favoritism of any kind. This is particularly important in the instance of upper management employees dating lower level employees. This part of the contract also protects the

lower level employee in the instance that the relationship ends, the subordinate should not be treated impartially or discriminated against in the occurrence that a promotion becomes available. Because the supervisor may have residual negative feelings if a breakup has occurred. (Hellriegel, Slocum 65) Consensual Relationship Agreements shows that an agency has an understanding that interoffice romances are a trending concept in the demographic of the Administration that I am currently employed under. The contract when presented by the agency should show that the company is demanding a certain standard of conduct from the people they hire. It is requiring a commitment of particular ethical behaviors and decisions to be made by managers and employees. (Hellriegel, Slocum 43) There are no universal answers, rules, or principles used to resolve all the ethical issues that arise in the workplace, but the CRA is potentially one way to reduce some of the problems that are instigated with interoffice dating. (Hellriegel, Slocum 39) For the agency a CRA reduces the risk of sexual harassment litigation. In many instances when the office romance ends, one of the employees files a harassment claim, stating he or she was pressured into the relationship. As signed agreement saying the relationship was consensual by both individuals, greatly reduces this claim. The contract gives the company a platform to have open forum discussions on the issue. It gives human resource professionals a doorway to discuss expected behaviors. It also allows the company to stipulate what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable by the involved employees. Again the Consensual Relationship Agreement is beneficial in protecting both the company and the employees. Consensual Relationship Agreements can also cause problems in the workplace so the pros and cons have to be weighed before a company decides if they will implement the usage of the “Love Contract.” Author and infidelity expert Ruth Houston states, “An office romance can cause you legal problems as well as public embarrassment.” (markestgloblal) This could transpire if a party in the relationship becomes involved in a corporate scandal. In this instance lovers and mistresses may be forced to testify against their partners to the extent of their relationships and any other knowledge they may have about the crimes their partners committed. Consensual Relationship Agreements are voluntary agreements and if they are not signed by the parties involved they will not be penalized, however; in the instance that the individuals do not sign they open the window to litigation. Litigation for discrimination if they believe they are being treated unfairly or being reprimanded for refusing to sign the contract. In addition to that, signing the agreement does not waive the rights of all parties regarding sexual harassment or other criminal behaviors that may develop at a later time. Consensual Relationship Agreements can be recognized as invasive and many companies often time require that they remain private and prohibit employees from discussing the details of the signed agreement. (thedailybeast.com) The chief legal officer for Manpower North America, Mark Toth says, “The CRA forces employees to become the love police, consistently enforcing who’s dating whom.” (thedailybeast.com) A CRA has no sure guarantee and may not completely protect companies from litigation. An employee could also contend that harassment actually began after he or she signed the contract. One could also argue that they were under compulsion and only signed the contract out of fear that he or she would lose his or her job if they did not agree to sign the document. The contract could also be considered intrusive and expose relationships that parties otherwise wish to keep hidden or secret. For example: married individuals who are indulging in an office affair or individuals who are indulging in a homosexual relationship and have not yet disclosed their sexual orientation to friends, family, or co-workers. Consensual Relationship Agreements is a written agreement that governs interoffice relationships and allows companies to ensure that employees adhere to a required level of company ethics and conduct. In order for a company to present its employees with a CRA the company has to have the contract written so that it aligns with the ethical principles the company is founded on. Organizational interest principles will be a focal point of the Consensual Relationship Agreement. The contract will act on the pretense of what is good for the company. (Hellriegel, Slocum 40) The utilitarian principle will also need to be considered when presenting the contract. Will this contract be outweighed by the good in it? Will the benefits of the contract be for the greater good of those it is meant to protect? Lastly the professional standards principle has to also be considered, the use of the CRA has to be explained before the employees and will they accept the reasons for the use of the Consensual Relationship Agreement; or will it cause tensions in the workplace. Privacy issues can pose serious ethical dilemmas in the workplace and the monitoring of employees by employers is essentially unregulated by the government. It then becomes the responsibility of the company to enforce ethical principles in the CRA to keep the work environment balanced with the company’s ethics and policies. The Consensual Relationship Agreement is only one option that employers can use to control interoffice romances. Other options are also available. In the scenario where an employee is dating his or her immediate supervisor, an employer can have a policy that says the subordinate has to be transferred to be managed by another supervisor. In the case where two equal level employees are dating the employer can have a policy that stipulates that one or both of the individuals have to be separated by being reassigned to different units or departments. In the instance that the employees are shift workers, schedules could be prepared so that the romantic parties never work together. This can be done in an effort to alleviate inappropriate behavior and keep other co-workers comfortable. The Consensual Relationship Agreement is not a universally regulated practice. Companies have the right and option to use the contract or not to use a contract. It is for the company to decide which policy works best for them and their employees.

Works Cited
Hooking Up at Work? Attention Couples: prepare to sign a 'love contract.'. (2008, May 13). Retrieved from The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/05/13/hooking-up-at-work.print.html
Anne. (2011, May 23). The Love Contract Debate. Retrieved from Kellogg Forum: http://www.kelloggforum.org/consensual-relationship-agreements/
Don Hellriegel, J. W. (2010). Organizational Behavior. In D. Hellriegel, & J. J. Slocum, Individual and Organizational Ethics (pp. 34-64). Mason: Cenage Learning.
Houston, R. (2012, october 22). Problems that Consensual Relationship Agreements Cause. Retrieved from Markest: http://markestglobal.com/data/con524297345a/…...

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