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Can employee dating be prohibited?

On Behalf of | May 22, 2024 | Employment Law

There are no laws against employees dating one another. This applies in California and across the United States. It is not illegal.

That said, some business owners do attempt to restrict romantic relationships in the office. They may say that these relationships are prohibited and that those who engage in them could be fired. Is this legal under California law?

There must be a conflict of interest

In some states, this would be legal, as employers are allowed to prohibit dating. This certainly doesn’t make office dating illegal, but it would be a violation of company policy that could lead to termination.

California is a bit different, however. Prohibiting dating is illegal. It’s a violation of the employees’ rights. Relationship bans will not be upheld in court and should not be instituted.

That said, there are some situations in which relationships can be prohibited, and that’s when there is a clear conflict of interest. But the emphasis is on the employer, who has to show that there is a distinct reason for the ban.

What should employers do instead?

Instead of trying to ban office relationships, employers should generally just set up policies to regulate them. Business owners do want to be careful that there aren’t any illegal relationships, such as a manager manipulating another employee into a relationship by promising them a raise or threatening to cut their hours if they refuse. But this can be done through regulation and isn’t a reason for an outright ban.

Employers and employees sometimes find themselves in disputes over issues like this. They need to understand the law and their legal options.