Employee Fraternization Policy (With Template and Sample)

Business owners face many concerns regarding their employees’ behavior. Besides getting to work on time and performing well, other concerns may include the way employees interact with each other. Having a company policy regarding fraternization helps employees know what’s expected of them and how they should conduct themselves at work.

 

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What to include in a fraternization policy

Businesses create company fraternization policies (also known as dating policies or non-fraternization policies) to ensure a safe and professional work environment among employees. Because they spend the majority of their workweek together, there is a chance that work relationships may develop into romantic relationships. For this reason, company policies should include specific language regarding fraternization. A fraternization policy must:

 

  • Define romantic versus friendship behavior and what the company deems as acceptable.
  • Describe the consequences of breaking the fraternization policy.
  • Forbid romantic relationships between managers and their subordinates.
  • Include a course of action for following through with the policy.

 

How to create a fraternization policy

Follow these steps to create a company fraternization policy:

 

1. Begin by explaining the reason for the policy

Before you go into the details of your policy, set a respectful tone by explaining the reason why fraternization policies are important and who the policy affects. Be as clear as possible so you don’t have any misunderstanding about the content of your policy later on.

 

2. Define the difference between a friendship and a romantic relationship

Including helpful, easy-to-understand definitions of friendship versus romance makes it easier for employees to understand what is and is not acceptable. This is especially important for the times when someone thinks they’re involved in a harmless friendship with a coworker while the policy states otherwise.

 

3. Prohibit relationships between employees and their supervisors

It’s never a good idea for managers to have romantic relationships with their employees due to the imbalance of power. The policy should explicitly state the company’s stance on this issue.

 

4. Forbid any dating between employees who are separated by two levels of authority

You may go one step further in your policy by prohibiting relationships between all supervisors and lower-level employees, no matter the department. Even though the chance for inappropriate work relationships decreases when supervisors don’t directly work with their subordinates, there is still a chance that romantic relationships could possess an imbalance of power.

 

5. Outline acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors

Clearly state what behaviors are acceptable and not acceptable for all employees, regardless of rank. Some examples of unacceptable behavior in the workplace include public displays of affection like kissing, hugging and giving shoulder massages. Other examples include making unnecessary comments about a person’s body or appearance. You may also include examples of appropriate versus inappropriate written communication.

 

6. State the consequences of policy violations

As with other sections of the policy, make sure you include clear consequences for employees who violate the policy. This ensures your employees take the policy seriously. For example, your policy may state that penalties may include demotion, departmental transfers, terminations or involuntary resignations as the consequences of a policy violation.

 

7. Set up an anonymous report process

Many employees remain silent about inappropriate behavior because they fear the repercussions that may compromise their career goals. Make it easy for your team to report policy violations by setting up an anonymous feedback tool that makes the process easy. People are more likely to provide honest feedback about negative situations when they may do so anonymously. 

Take it one step further by having every employee read and sign a paper acknowledging their understanding of the policy. Plus, you’ll have proof of their acknowledgment for use in the event of a lawsuit.

 

Related: How to Reduce Employee Turnover

 

Fraternization policy template

Here is a basic fraternization policy template to follow for your business needs:

 

[Purpose and statement of policy]

[Policy statement]

[Failure to comply with this policy]

[Reporting violations of this policy]

 

Fraternization policy example

Most fraternization policies exist within the company’s employee handbook, but if you’re just starting one, you’ll want to send out an email to everyone in the company alerting them of the new policy. Here is an example of what a fraternization policy may look like within a handbook:

 

16:2 Workplace and dating relationships

Center Concepts holds its employees to the highest ethical and professional standards. As such, we have created a fraternization policy that outlines our guidelines regarding employees forming personal relationships with each other. Our goal is to protect the well-being of our employees and retain the professional working environment.

 

Employees of Center Concepts are encouraged to develop and maintain professional relationships in the workplace, so long as these relationships do not interfere with the effective functioning of the workplace and goals of our company. This policy does not prevent the development of friendships or even romantic relationships between coworkers, but it does establish boundaries as to how relationships are conducted during working hours and within the working environment. 

 

Before developing romantic relationships, consider the potential for:

 

  • Workplace gossip
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Sexual harassment allegations
  • Favoritism
  • Repercussions of a break-up
  • Work distraction

Employees who engage in consensual romantic relationships must conduct themselves in an appropriate professional manner while on company property. They should not engage in any inappropriate behaviors that may cause their coworkers to feel embarrassed, awkward or uncomfortable. This includes, but is not limited to, intimate contact like:

 

  • Kissing
  • Prolonged hugging
  • Hand holding
  • Massaging
  • Personal texting, emails and calls

Romantic relationships between managers and their employees are not permitted. This situation is unhealthy for workplace morale and creates a conflict of interest, plus the chance for coercion and/or preferential treatment. Any supervisor, manager or director within the company who engages in a romantic relationship with a member of his or her team must report it to the human resources department immediately. Once reported, the company will analyze the situation to determine a resolution. 

 

Failure to comply with this fraternization policy may result in termination, departmental transfers or voluntary resignation. Employees may report policy violations anonymously through the Netbar portal. You will not be penalized for reporting inappropriate behavior.

 

Related: Cultivating Positive Workplace Behavior

 

Fraternization FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding employee fraternization policies: 

 

What is an anti-fraternization policy?

Anti-fraternization policies contain the same types of information as fraternization policies. They define expectations of behavior in a professional setting and prohibit certain romantic or unhealthy relationships between two or more people. For example, many workplaces present the opportunity for supervisors and their team members to develop personal relationships. The same goes for an educational setting between a teacher and a student. To avoid risky behaviors, companies and organizations have policies that provide guidelines for appropriate conduct and prohibit inappropriate behaviors.

 

It is appropriate for married people to work together?

Yes, as long as they keep their communications and actions professional. It helps for married couples to work in different departments or at the same level because it minimizes the potential for conflict. Of course, there are challenges to working in the same space. For instance, couples who work together and go home together don’t experience much separation. This means they may tire of each other’s company or feel as though they struggle to maintain a separate identity.

 

Why do workplace romances occur?

The most common reason workplace romances occur is that people who work together often spend more time with their coworkers than their own families. For example, full-time employees spend around 40 hours a week together, often working within close quarters. They become comfortable and soon start sharing more personal details about their lives. Once this happens, an employee may start to treat their closest coworker as their partner.

 

Can bosses and employees be friends outside of work?

Yes, but you should create boundaries when you’re at work. Because managers know sensitive information about their team members and company goals, they must exercise caution regarding their work conversations. Just like romantic relationships between coworkers, friendships between managers and employees should remain professional in the workplace. Personal friendships may lead to abuse of power or favoritism quickly, so it’s best to keep friendships as professional as possible.

 

What is an unprofessional work relationship?

Unprofessional work relationships violate guidelines outlined in fraternization policies. They go against company rules and expectations. Unprofessional work relationships are often too personal for a work environment and may involve inappropriate communication and actions that make others feel uncomfortable.

 

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