First comes work, then comes marriage for almost a third of employees engaged in office romance. In 2014, CareerBuilder’s annual Valentine’s Day romance survey of 3,000 workers found that 31 percent of workplace relationships had evolved into a marriage.
But what happens when the honeymoon ends, and they return to work?
Legally, having a married couple in the same office isn’t an issue as long as they’re not in a position of having undue influence over the other, said LegalZoom.com Inc.’s general counsel Chas Rampenthal. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, however.
“A broken clock is right twice a day — sometimes things work out, but that doesn’t mean they’re often a good idea,” Rampenthal said.
That said, Rampenthal explained he isn’t against the idea of hiring two people already in a solid marriage, which can increase productivity at work. The danger zone, however, is if one employee doesn’t work out, but his or her spouse is an excellent asset to the company. Firing one could cost a company the other.
When both married people work out, it can still pose risks in the workplace depending on culture. Sean Horan, a faculty member at Texas State University who studies office romance, said his parents started working together in the 25th year of their 40 years of marriage. First hand, he saw that it could be done, but success depends on more than the people in the relationship.
“People are always going to view you as a team, for better or for worse,” Horan said. “It there’s a workplace decision, they’re going to view you as a team, which may work for you or against you.”
Rampenthal said one of the best things to do in the situation is to have a lawyer sit down with HR and help design policies that promote the desired company culture. Drawing up a plan helps convey how comfortable an organization is with married employees. Although it might not include protection from the law, it will still help define the parameters an organization decides to use when it comes to employed spouses.
“It’s not a legal risk, but it’s a business risk,” Rampenthal said. “That’s what’s interesting about this topic. It jumps back and forth between common sense and logic, and running a company and being very aware of legal risks and ramifications of the actions you take and policies you implement.”