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Love And The Law

Published by on February 14, 2008

Because today is Valentine’s Day, the internet is awash with stories about love in the workplace and the law.  Here are a few I noticed: When Office Romances Go Bad (Ohio Employer’s Law Blog) — References an article in Business Week about office romance and recaps a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for […]

Because today is Valentine’s Day, the internet is awash with stories about love in the workplace and the law.  Here are a few I noticed:

When Office Romances Go Bad (Ohio Employer’s Law Blog) — References an article in Business Week about office romance and recaps a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit illustrating the potential fall-out from one.

Romance in the Workplace (Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog) — Some practical comments on dealing with workplace romance.

Office Romances & The Law (WSJ blog) — Mentions an episode of The Office where the issue of a love contract comes up.

Can Staring = Sexual Harassment (Manpower employment law blog) — Apparently it can be a jury issue in the First Circuit.  Go figure.

Naked Cowboy Sues M&Ms Over Ad  (New York Post) — This one is just for fun and to see if you are paying attention.

Love Contracts, Revisited (Contracts Prof Blog) — Mentions a different episode of The Office involving a “love contract.”  Apparently the writers of The Office like love contracts.

For those of you who are members of SHRM, last month’s HR Magazine had an article on “love contracts” also.  (See also here for brief discussion on issues involving “love contracts.”) 

Frankly, the very concept of a “love contract” strikes me as a symptom of an overlawyered and confused society.  On the one hand, television openly portrays sexual images and conduct on a routine basis.  Nor can one walk through an airport without being innundated with sexual images.  On the other hand, the legal system expects everyone to act like androgynous robots in the workplace.  (I happen to agree that the workplace is not the place for sexuality or sexual harassment.)  Given what society tolerates today, is it any wonder that we see cases like this?

This issue comes up occasionally in sexual harassment lawsuits — to what extent does inappropriate conduct in the workplace become appropriate when measured by the standards of what people watch on television?  There are federal court decisions holding that a Title VII action will not lie for remarks and innuendo that are no more offensive than sexual jokes told on major network television.  With television today being highly sexualized, at what point will sexualized conduct in the workplace become legally permissible?  Or will our society instead continue to move in a schizophrenic manner on this issue?

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