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The limits of love at work: can the company control the love life of its employees?

2024-02-12T12:05:13.189Z

Highlights: The limits of love at work: can the company control the love life of its employees?. Companies cannot sanction their employees for having a relationship, unless that relationship harms their activity. Work is the fourth place for Spaniards to find a partner, according to a study carried out last year by Amazon. The survey also reveals that 61% of Spaniards would be willing to maintain a romantic relationship with a co-worker. Only one in three would share it openly, perhaps for fear of reprisals.


Companies cannot sanction their employees for having a relationship, unless that relationship harms their activity.


Work is the fourth place for Spaniards to find a partner, according to a study carried out last year by Amazon, only behind dating applications, public spaces, such as bars, and introductions through mutual friends.

The survey also reveals that 61% of Spaniards would be willing to maintain a romantic relationship with a co-worker, although only one in three would share it openly.

Data that shows that, despite being a very widespread and accepted reality in the work environment, there are still many reservations when it comes to exposing it publicly, perhaps for fear of reprisals.

No organization can prohibit romantic relationships between employees or between them and clients, competitors, or suppliers because, as Ana Godino, partner at Sagardoy Abogados, points out, it is a situation that affects the private sphere and the right to privacy, and A regulation in this sense would directly confront this fundamental right.

Thus, the Superior Court of Justice (TSJ) of Cantabria, in a 2014 ruling, declared null and void the dismissal of the director of an operations department because it concluded that he had been fired solely because he had a romantic relationship with a subordinate, since there was no committed no violation.

The dismissal was, therefore, a violation of their right to privacy.

Also for this reason, the Social Court number 5 of Badajoz declared null and void in 2022 the dismissal of a worker and sentenced the company to compensate her with 6,000 euros for discriminating against her compared to her partner, also an employee of the company, who received a minor penalty.

Companies cannot investigate their workers to hunt down lovers, much less publicize the romantic relationships they discover.

As Sara Olabarría, senior associate at Abdón Pedrajas Littler, points out, both actions would be disproportionate intrusions into the private sphere of those affected.

Despite this, it is not so unusual for companies to include in their internal policies a clause that prohibits the existence of romantic relationships among their staff.

Mireia Sabaté, partner at Baker McKenzie, clarifies that, although it is most likely that this type of precepts are null, if they exist, they would only have a deterrent effect and non-compliance could never justify a sanction.

However, the fact that an organization cannot explicitly prevent couples from arising at work does not mean that it cannot impose certain restrictions through its code of conduct regarding the possible consequences that these relationships may have on the development of business activity. .

Thus, a company could sanction an employee for actions derived from her romantic relationship whenever they cause harm to the company, such as a conflict of interest, favored treatment, or a leak of information.

Also for those that may have an impact on the professional sphere, such as a decrease in performance, a bad work environment, or a harassment situation.

Never for the mere fact of having a loving bond with a colleague, client, competitor or supplier.

“Some companies try to regulate this matter to avoid possible negative situations that may occur as a consequence of the existence of the romantic relationship and limit its potential impact,” explains Mireia Sabaté.

A situation that companies usually monitor to avoid conflicts of interest that end up affecting them are relationships with competitors, clients and suppliers.

María Jesús Herrera, partner at Sagardoy Abogados, points out that companies can establish codes of conduct in which duties of communication and transparency are established, but always aimed at controlling and avoiding possible conflicts of interest.

Like the one that took place in a case resolved in 2015 by the TSJ of Castilla-La Mancha that confirmed the admissibility of the dismissal of a couple who, both being employees of the same company and with an exclusivity clause, constituted a company (supplier) of with his back turned to management, who billed the employer for services.

In this regard, Alfredo Aspra, partner at Labormatters Abogados, recommends that companies, when configuring these restrictions in their ethical codes, clearly identify what business interests they want to protect and the conflicts to avoid with this type of limitations. and that when they apply measures they take into account the circumstances of each specific case (company activity, level of responsibility of the worker's position, etc.).

The position of the employee within the company also influences this issue.

“The limits are exactly the same,” insists Álvaro San Martín, a labor lawyer at the Casadeley law firm, however, he adds, “the company may have more tools to prohibit a romantic relationship in which there is a manager, among other things, because the “The commercial information it deals with is more sensitive than at other levels.”

In this case, the company cannot sanction the manager in love either, but it can put measures in place to prevent, as a consequence of that relationship, a violation of data protection or an infringement of industrial property from occurring, for example. because due to his position he handles confidential information with which he can considerably harm the company.

Consequently, it is common, as indicated by Sara Olabarría, for the company to require those who occupy the highest hierarchical positions to communicate those personal relationships that may represent a conflict of interest, both with respect to certain company personnel and third parties.

Selection process

A company cannot prohibit the hiring of a candidate simply because they are the partner of someone who already belongs to its staff, because this would imply a violation of their privacy.

The protocols in the selection processes, points out lawyer Álvaro San Martin, prioritize the merits, experience and worth of the candidate and if he meets these standards he must enter like any other, despite having a romantic bond with a worker of the company.

What's more, warns Sara Olabarría, from Abdón Pedrajas Littler, you cannot ask applicants about their private lives. 

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Source: elparis

All business articles on 2024-02-12

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