Love is in the air!
With Valentine's Day approaching, here is a reminder of the potential issues related to romantic relationships in the workplace. Indeed, a recent survey revealed that 25% of employees have fallen in love in a professional framework and that 55% of men are favourable to having a romantic affair at work, whereas 68% of women declared to be reluctant.
Right to privacy
Under French law, the employer may not as a manner of principle forbid romantic relationships between employees. Therefore, any provision of the employment agreement or any policy prohibiting this would be void, in application of the constitutional right to privacy. This implies that employees have no obligation to disclose the existence of such a relationship to their employer.
However, employees' freedom to have a romantic relationship at work is subject to certain limitations.
Before starting a romantic relationship at work, it is essential to ensure that the feelings are mutual. If the company cannot normally sanction innocent flirting, it must prevent any attempt of any form of sexual harassment. Indeed, the use of any form of strong pressure to obtain a sexual favour will be considered to be sexual harassment. The author of this harassment can face both disciplinary and criminal sanctions : this behaviour may indeed lead to the person's dismissal for gross misconduct and to a fine of up to € 30,000 and up to two years of imprisonment. These sanctions may be increased in the event of aggravating circumstances, amongst which the abuse of power. French law provisions regarding sexual harassment must be included in the company's Internal Regulations and the employer must display these legal provisions on sexual harassment in the workplace.
The employer must ensure employees' safety and should not only prevent sexual harassment but put an end to it and sanction the responsible employee, otherwise, the company could be held responsible. The employer should therefore be attentive to this issue.
When personal behaviour affects work
If the employer cannot sanction the romantic relationship itself, it is possible to sanction an employee's behaviour if it has impacts on work. For example, case law considers that the employer may, under certain conditions, sanction favouritism, poor performance, or a conflict of interest linked to the employee's personal life. The employer should therefore act with caution to ensure justification of the sanction is not the relationship itself.
Numbers of the month
30% of employees have had a relationship with a colleague
1 out of 10 couples allegedly met at work