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What HR Needs to Know for Valentine's Day

What does Valentine's Day mean for HR folks? Hopefully, Valentine's Day doesn't bring situations involving inappropriate gifts, sexual conversations or the boss asking a subordinate out on a date. But, guess what folks: It might.

Monday, February 10, 2014
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Valentine's Day is coming. What does this mean to you? Really, it has far different significance to different people. In my house, it means a few things. First, and by far foremost, it means ignoring my wife's dictate that we "don't do Valentine's Day -- it's a silly 'holiday.' " (You only make that mistake six or seven times.) Second, it means finding a stuffed animal for my 6-year-old daughter and something sportier for my 10-year-old daughter. Oh, and in my house, Valentine's Day is, above all else, an excuse to overwhelm each other with love and kisses. Yes indeed.

But what does Valentine's Day mean for HR folks? Hopefully, it doesn't mean employees overwhelming each other with love and kisses. Hopefully, Valentine's Day doesn't bring situations involving inappropriate gifts, sexual conversations or the boss asking a subordinate out on a date. But, guess what folks, it might.

Valentine's Day is a corporate reminder that, yes, inappropriate conduct happens and it provides HR folks with the impetus to review their Equal Employment Opportunity Policy to ensure that it addresses the practical realities of the workplace.

Below are three considerations that HR should be aware of when it comes to Equal Employment Opportunity policies:

       1.     Workplace Dating:  While I am not a huge fan of policies that prohibit, in totality, workplace dating, I am a proponent of a workplace dating provision that does a couple of things. First, the policy should make clear that dating absolutely is prohibited between supervisors and subordinates, or more precisely, anyone over whom the supervisor has direct or indirect supervisory authority. Second, the workplace dating policy also should make clear that, while employees are permitted to date, the employee who is being asked on a date has the absolute right to say no. Third, I believe the policy should make clear that, while employees do have the right to ask each other for dates, once the employee being asked out has provided anything other than an unqualified "yes," the requesting employee cannot ask that employee out again.

       2.     Social Media:  Facebook is dangerous. Everyone get that?  Facebook is DANGEROUS! Your EEO policy should incorporate by reference your social media policy (yes, you had better by this point have a Social Media Policy). IT should make it clear that the prohibitions otherwise outlined in your EEO Policy also apply to communications via social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). In addition, seriously consider making clear in your Social Media Policy that supervisors are prohibited from being "friends" on Facebook with anyone over whom they direct or indirect supervisory authority. Generally, the friend requests giving rise to these Facebook relationships are initiated by the supervisor and, big surprise to no one, the non-supervisor may feel compelled to accept the request and does so for that reason alone. 

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       3.     Complaint Procedure:  Despite all of our best efforts, there will be situations which give rise to internal EEO complaints. Recognizing this fact, HR leaders should use this Valentine's Day as an opportunity to make sure that their EEO complaint procedure is effective. As effective Complaint Procedure is easy to follow and provides employees a vast array of people to whom they can bring a complaint. An effective Complaint Procedure provides not only several people to whom the internal complaint can be brought, but also provides a diverse group to whom the complaint can be brought. Examine the demographics of those to whom an employee can complain and ensure that there is diversity in things such as age, race, gender, national origin, religion etc.

February 14th is coming. As humans, let's use the day as a reminder to show love to those you should show love. As HR leaders, make certain to update your equal-employment-opportunity policies.

And let's do it all in the name of love.

Michael Cohen is a partner at Duane Morris in Philadelphia.

 

 

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