Should employers promulgate a fraternization policy?

Yes.

Workplace camaraderie is beneficial for employers but Friday night frat-house behavior is counterproductive, ruins office furniture and may get you sued.  Can employers draw the line between the workplace and the frat-house?  One tool many employers use in defining that line is a fraternization policy.  Of course not all or even most romantically involved coworkers violate the twin constraints of employer policy or good taste, but for those employees who are overly enthusiastic in displaying their romantic skills at work, a clear policy can assist.

Here is a sample policy:

Non-Fraternization Policy

The ABC Tribe desires to avoid misunderstandings, actual or potential conflicts of interest, complaints of favoritism, possible claims of sexual harassment, and the employee morale and dissension problems that can potentially result from romantic relationships involving employees.  Employees are discouraged from fraternizing or becoming romantically involved with other employees, when, in the sole opinion of the Tribe, their personal relationships may create a conflict of interest, cause disruption, create a negative or unprofessional work environment, or present concerns regarding supervision, safety, security, or morale.

Any employee involved with another employee must immediately and fully disclose in writing the relevant circumstances to the Human Resources Director so that a determination can be made as to whether the relationship presents an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest. If an actual, perceived or potential conflict exists, the Tribe may take whatever action it deems appropriate according to the circumstances, up to and including transfer or discharge. Failure to disclose material facts may lead to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

It is not the Tribe’s intention to dictate choices made in your personal life with this Policy. Employees must understand, however, that the Tribe works hard to insure a fair, conflict free workplace.

All employees should also remember that the Tribe maintains a strict policy against unlawful harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment.

Recommendation:  Adopt a fraternization policy and train employees to embrace it.  On second thought “embrace” may not be the best word choice.

About the Author:

Richard McGee is a lawyer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who focuses his practice on gaming, gaming regulation, tribal employment and litigation in tribal, state and federal courts.  Richard has the privilege of working with tribes and tribal organizations on Human Resources matters including training.  Additionally, tribes ask Richard to address specific topics while incorporating the tribe’s related laws and policies into the sessions.  This is an invitation to engage Richard to produce and facilitate training for your tribe.