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February 12, 2001Press Release

Survey Concludes Americans Overwhelmingly Disapprove of Romantic Relationships Between Supervisors and their Employees

But a new Employment Law Alliance poll shows a nation divided over regulating office romances.

Milwaukee, WI - Today may be Valentines Day, but the vast majority of Americans believe that Cupid can cause favoritism and even retaliation in the workplace if there's a romantic relationship between supervisors and their subordinates, a new national study by the Employment Law Alliance (ELA) reported.

Scott C. Beightol, partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP and CFO/Board Member of the ELA, with over 1,000 of the world's leading employment and labor lawyers, said the "America At Work" poll was commissioned because personal relationships between managers and employees are under increasing scrutiny by employers and lawmakers. Beightol said the findings overall should serve as a "wake-up call to every employer in every industry to intensify on-site training of managers and review corporate policies and procedures to avoid problems."

Specifically, Beightol said the poll of 1,000 American adults shows that:

  • More than two thirds believe such relationships are harmful and can cause favoritism and retaliation.
  • Even though there was strong feeling about the potential negative impact of such relationships, only 48% of those surveyed said they favor regulations barring supervisor-subordinate relationships.
  • When questioned in the context of individual privacy, 62% said romantic relationships at work are personal and private and none of the employer's business.

"This is a very sensitive and serious issue where there are no easy solutions," commented Beightol. "The fact is that since so many relationships begin in the workplace, attempting to regulate interaction, particularly when couples keep their interactions strictly away from the office, becomes very difficult and raises a host of complex legal and moral issues."

Beightol said he and his colleagues spend a substantial amount of time training managers across the country on how to manage workplace relationships and on prevention of harassment or favoritism. He added, "This poll clearly supports the view that subordinates - whether they're men or women - are vulnerable and that the employer is at risk if they don't take some preventive steps. It also shows that co-employees view their fellow employee's relationship with the boss skeptically and have favoritism concerns."

Dr. Theodore Reed, whose research firm, Reed Haldy McIntosh & Associates, conducted the study, noted that 22% said they were personally aware of supervisor-subordinate romantic relationships in their own workplaces. And 61% said they wouldn't even think of having a romantic relationship with a supervisor or subordinate. "The research also shows that the older the employee the less tolerant they seem to be of such relationships and the more they favor management discouraging, if not formally attempting, to regulate such conduct."

The Employment Law Alliance is the leading global employment and labor law practice network. It is comprised of more than 50 independent firms representing clients with multi-state and international interests.

For further information on the ELA "America At Work" poll, please contact Steve Hirschfeld at his law firm of Curiale, Dellaverson, Hirschfeld, Kelly & Kraemer LLP at 415-835-9011, or via e-mail at shirschfeld@cdhkk.com. The full poll results are also available on the ELA web site at www.employmentlawalliance.com.

"America At Work" Survey: Supervisor-Subordinate Romantic Relationships Commissioned by Employment Law Alliance, Conducted by Reed Haldy McIntosh & Associates
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