Weak Economy is Killing Off Office Romances

In a time of massive uncertainty in the job market, there are many economic side effects. But one surprising product of a slimming job market has been the steep decline of office romances. But unlike the most likely of reasons - stress levels of workers - it's actually because of an increase in legal complaints from third parties. Or in laymen's terms, office tattle tales.

It that seems a bit opportunistic to you, then you'd be right. It's a tricky game of "let me get you fired before I get laid off" using whatever means are necessary. With a growth of nearly 23% in 2008, these types of complaints are starting to become more and more commonplace in the office. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the new growing trend in employment lawsuits is something called a retaliation lawsuit. Sondra Solovoy of Workplace Answers states in an interview with Bloomberg News that "Such suits are waged by workers who claim they were fired to prevent them from filing a discrimination claim against their employer. Currently, retaliation suits are contributing to a wave of litigation that has employers in a panic."

Katherine Ricci, a 26-year-old public relations professional in New York City recalls her recent office romance saying, "I was never worried about getting in trouble, although he was. That's why we agreed to tell our managers. We didn't want people to think there would be any special treatment." But instead of going directly to HR, they went to their direct supervisors and spilled the beans. "HR found out eventually, but since my place of work does not have an official dating policy, we thought it was unnecessary to say anything official. However, we made sure everyone we worked with directly was aware of our relationship."

Since many companies are worried about this uptick in lawsuits, they've been instilling workplace seminars on compliance, with some even going as far as making office couples sign contracts that state that their relationship will not affect their work performance and environment. And while that may seem excessive, it can keep a company safe in a legal situation. Ricci understands how sensitive these situations can be - especially when they end. "We only worked on one or two projects together, and after that he decided he didn't want to work with me anymore. I wasn't offended - I understood. To be honest it was probably for the better since we eventually broke up."

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