Can an employer retroactively apply a policy on office romances?

I think my employer may be doing at
least morally questionable things in the
office regarding a romantic relationship
I have with a colleague. When we
started dating there was no policy, but
now she is asking all of us to sign one
that could possibly result in my
immediate dismissal if it’s enforceable.
On top of that, I think she’s possibly
violated her own handbook in how
she’s handled some workplace issues.
So my general question is how can I
protect myself if the policy takes effect
next week? Can she apply a policy
retroactively, despite the fact we work
in different departments and only work
on some products collaboratively?
Does she have any obligation to prove
there is a conflict or potential conflict in
a discretionary policy if that’s the basis
for reassignment or dismissal?

Asked on May 25, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

First of all, as to the new office rule, it is legal. Absent an employment contract or union agreement to the contrary, company policy can be changed. The fact is that a business can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit. As for any harrassment, you do not appear to have a claim for a "hostile work enviornment". Such an enviornment exists when a co-worker's behavior/actions within a workplace creates a setting that is difficult for another person to reasonably work in. However, these behaviors/actions typically must be "discriminatory" in nature and are not just a result of rude or unprofessional behavior. By "discriminatory", your treatment must be due to your being a member of a "protected class". In other words race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, etc. must not play a factor. Based on the facts that you have presented, it's not clear that this is your situation. For your part, you can either accepts these conditions, continue to complain but risk termination, or quit.

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