Romance in the office

Garry Hertzberg, practising attorney at Dewey Hertzberg Levy and host of the Laws of Life with Garry Hertzberg on

A friend of mine has fallen for a guy in her office. She is divorced and he is a young bachelor. The situation is that she works with this guy in the same department and they work quite long hours in close proximity. He is slightly her junior in the workplace and he ultimately reports to her. Over time, their relationship started to become a little bit more than just a friendship.

They tried to keep their relationship under wraps but these things always come out. One night after a long sales meeting, they parted ways in the parking area with a kiss on the lips only to be caught in the act by the office bigmouth coming around the corner.

She called me concerned about her job because it was obvious that by the end of the week the whole office would know. Her concern was that the relationship was against the company code of conduct which states that employees must avoid romantic relationships with colleagues and that nobody may be in a supervisory role to another with whom they are in a romantic relationship with.

This rule appears in many workplace policies across all sectors. It is a common rule in many large companies but can it really be enforced?

Is it fair to restrict two people from falling in love? Many couples have found each other in the workplace which is obvious because as a working adult your workplace becomes your social circle. How else is one supposed to meet a life partner?

These policies are in place to protect the companies from all sorts of potential harm such as a perception of favouritism or nepotism, harassment claims, workplace tension and productivity issues and the list goes on.

Our Constitution contains a Bill Of Rights which includes the right to freedom of association. I told her that if she was called upon to answer to a disciplinary inquiry, she could argue that the workplace rule infringes on a fundamental right and as such, may be an unfair or unjust rule that the company cannot enforce. Fortunately, the matter has not come to a head to date and it seems like the company is going to let this one slide.

Do you believe that your employer has the right to control who you see?

Edited by Stacey Woensdregt

Garry Hertzberg

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