Coworkers Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani are dating! What could possibly go wrong?

November 09, 2015 - by: Marilyn Moran 2 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

Last week, the Internet was abuzz with the news that Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, who work together as judges on The Voice, have begun dating. Workplace relationships, though fraught with hazard for HR professionals, are incredibly common, with 80 percent of employees reporting that they have been involved in, or have heard of, coworkers dating at their place of business. Of course, employee hookups can be distracting to their coworkers and cause a lot of talk around the proverbial watercooler.  More important to HR, the end of workplace relationships can result in sexual harassment claims if one party to the relationship decides to break things off while the jilted employee continues to express romantic feelings or lashes out in anger toward the ex.  Get Your Flirt On (or Not)

To avoid this drama, some employers enact anti-fraternization policies to prevent employees from dating one another altogether, while others adopt dating policies to ensure that cubicle-crossed lovers leave the PDA at home and remain professional and productive at work. The large majority of employers, however, recognize and accept that their employees may want to date one another, and simply rely on their sexual harassment policies to govern the parameters of employee relationships.

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Mad Men ends: What have we learned?

May 19, 2015 - by: Josh Sudbury 1 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

The seven-season-long nonstop drink-and-smoke-a-thon that was Mad Men has come to a close. Were you entertained? Were you satisfied? Better yet, did you learn anything?800px-Mad_Men_(logo).svg I will spare you my personal thoughts on the merits of the ending as there are countless commentaries available on the Web. (Really, it’s amazing how many there are.) Suffice it to say that the “ending” appeared to bring more new beginnings than closure: Roger Sterling’s (third) marriage to Marie Calvet; Joan’s new production company; Pete Campbell’s new job at Lear Jet; Ken Cosgrove at Dow Chemical; Peggy and Stan finally admitting they loved each other (though no one makes falling in love more awkward than Peggy Olson); and, last but not least, Don/Dick Draper/Whitman with his back to the California coast dreaming of the most iconic Coca-Cola ad of the 20th Century.

From the perspective of an employment lawyer, one of the most notable developments that occurred in the last few episodes, however, was not one of the evolution (or devolution) of the individual characters, but the constant upheaval at the advertising behemoth, McCann Erickson. The second half of the final season begins with the revelation that McCann’s acquisition of Sterling Cooper was not a partnership but, rather, Jim Hobart’s mastermind plan to fold the old competitor into McCann’s ever-increasing portfolio–even at the expense of several expensive conflicts-of-interest. But, the Titanic of the ad world can’t hold on to it all. And, companies of all sizes and industries can take a few lessons.

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Parks Madness

March 25, 2015 - by: David Kim 1 COMMENTS
David Kim

In February, one of my favorite televisions shows, Parks and Recreation, concluded its magnificent seven-season run. While it had typical struggles in the early going, it soon hit its stride and gave us a cast of interesting characters whom we got to see evolve from their first interaction with the Pawnee, Indiana, Parks Department all the way into their eventual future lives. March Madness Businessman Hand Filling In Bracket From Above

The beginning of March Madness has helped to alleviate some of the void left by the departure of Parks (yes, I’m on a first-name basis with the show). In honor of both of these exceptional television viewing experiences, I decided to do a Parks-inspired March Madness bracket to determine which Parks character would be the most ideal employee for an organization, and conversely as a result, who would make an HR director pull his or hair out with worry about potential liability or lack of productiveness.

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If Bill Cosby is wearing a garish sweater, this must be 1980s TV!

March 27, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 0 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

A few weeks ago, I saw a news story about how the last of the baby boomers are turning 50 in 2014. “Wow, that’s old,” I thought, until I realized that I’m 53. Then, as if I needed any further reminders of my elder statesmanship, one of the legal assistants in our office, a 20-something, accused me of “making up” the fact that there used to be a popular singer named Bing. Sigh. (And for the record, he was popular way before my time.)  CosbySweater

That’s it, I decided. Time for a blog post about popular culture from an era that none of those rascally whippersnappers will even remember: the 1980s.  That’ll teach ‘em not to be so darn … er, young. So charge up your brick-sized cellular phone, press “play” and “record” simultaneously on your 150-pound manually-operated VCR, and run your comb through that mullet: We’re going to take a spin through “Employment Law in1980s TV-Land.”

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Parks and relationships

October 18, 2013 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

As an avid Parks and Recreation fan, I cannot help but love the chemistry between newlyweds Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt. Long before they were joining their dysfunctional families via a wedding with a punch heard round the world and a unity quilt (complete with a patch dedicated to waffles, of course), these two were navigating the complicated minefield of an office romance. Like a number of employers, the fictional City of Pawnee had enacted a policy against workplace dating, which posed a serious obstacle for Leslie and Ben’s budding romance.  Clearly this story had a happy ending for the two lovebirds, but unfortunately that is not always the case in the real world where workplace romances all too often lead to messy litigation.

While there are countless cases of one party to a soured office romance later accusing a coworker of sexual harassment and denying that the relationship was ever consensual (particularly where the accused had supervisory authority over the accuser), there are also cases of non-parties to the romance attempting to file suit under a variety of creative theories. For example, in a case out of Texas, two employees entered into an extramarital affair. Their spouses decided to sue the company for negligently interfering in their familial relationships by failing to take action to prevent the affair. The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found in favor of the employer and helped establish that employers generally aren’t liable for failing to prevent office liaisons.

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