In response to a wave of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations in recent months that has led eight members of the US Congress to either resign or decline to run for re-election, the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to bar its members from engaging in sexual relationships with their employees and from using taxpayer funds to settle harassment suits, the Washington Post reports:
H.R. 4924 alters the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to require members to reimburse the Treasury Department when they are involved in settlements; automatically refers cases that have settled to the House Ethics Committee; extends workplace protections to unpaid staffers, including interns; gives staffers the ability to file a lawsuit at the same time as they file a complaint; and improves record-keeping.
A separate resolution, House Resolution 724, requires each member of the House to adopt policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination; establishes the nonpartisan Office of Employee Advocacy to provide assistance to staffers with complaints; mandates that each member’s office certify it is not using its budget for workplace settlements; and prohibits sexual relationships between members and “any employee of the House that works under [their] supervision.”
The resolution passed on Tuesday should put a stop to the widely criticized practice of paying settlements to victims of sexual harassment in the House with taxpayer funds, the Associated Press explains:
In its annual survey on office romance, conducted in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, CareerBuilder finds this year that the number of US employees saying they have dated a co-worker at a ten-year low of 36 percent, down from 41 percent last year and 40 percent in 2008:
Thirty-seven percent of men say they have dated a coworker compared to 35 percent of women, while one in five male workers (20 percent) say they have dated someone at work two or more times in their career, compared to just 15 percent of their female colleagues. …
Of those who have dated at work, more than a quarter of women (27 percent) say they have dated someone who was their boss compared to just 16 percent of men. Additionally, 30 percent of these workers say they have dated someone who was at a higher level in the organization than they were. Thirty-five percent of female coworkers reported dating someone at a higher level in the company than them, compared to 25 percent of their male coworkers.
The shift from a ten-year high in last year’s survey to a ten-year low this year may be related to the unprecedented attention finally being given to sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace after countless women opened up about their experiences as part of the #MeToo movement over the past six months. Wider awareness of these problems and an increased focus on preventing harassment and punishing perpetrators have reportedly led to anxieties among men in the workplace about the propriety of their interactions with female colleagues, which would tend to result in fewer workplace romances being initiated.
We’ve heard of online dating sites like eHarmony applying their matchmaking algorithms to job searches, but one dating app, Feeld has charted a different course in blending romance and work with a bot that essentially turns Slack into a matchmaking service. Leah Fessler at Quartz raises her eyebrows at what most HR professionals would agree is a very bad idea:
To use the bot, a designated administrator at a company must first choose to install the app. But once it’s downloaded, anyone on your Slack team can direct message @Feeld and enter the name of their crush. If the feeling is mutual, both of you get a notification; if not, no one’s the wiser.
The bot “does not constitute a partnership, official relationship, or endorsement from Slack,” Fessler notes—nor should it, as Feeld’s effort to enable romance in the workplace would likely lead to problems:
It’s one thing to acknowledge that workplace romances sometimes happen. (My own parents met at work.) But it’s quite another for a company to actively seek to facilitate them. …
Employees who share romantic interest in one another should be able to, as Feeld suggests, “embrace feelings” in appropriate, respectful, and consensual ways outside of the office. But when a dating app exists on what is essentially a workplace platform, any employers that deign to use it are sexualizing what is supposed to be a safe, professional space. That’s sure to make many employees uncomfortable, even if they opt out.
David Lumb at Engadget agrees, worrying that installing Feeld would disrupt the “sometimes-tenuous neutrality of a workspace”:
Live and Learn/Shutterstock
Love is in the air in US workplaces, as CareerBuilder’s annual Valentine’s Day survey shows, with 41 percent of American workers saying they have had an office romance, up from 37 percent last year and now at the highest level since 2007:
Office romances are just not happening between peers: Of those who have had an office romance, more than 1 in 5 (29 percent, up from 23 percent last year) have dated someone in a higher position than them — a more common occurrence for women than men (33 percent versus 25 percent). Fifteen percent of workers who have had an office romance say they have dated someone who was their boss. And as if dating a superior weren’t risky enough, 19 percent of office romances involved at least one person who was married at the time.
Keeping your relationship out of work is hard work. Nearly two in five workers who have had an office romance (38 percent) had to keep the relationship a secret at work. Male workers were just as likely to keep their office romances secret (40 percent) compared to their female counterparts (37 percent). … Unfortunately, not all workplace relationships end happily ever after – and some result in more than heartbreak: 5 percent of workers who have had an office romance say they have left a job because of an office relationship gone sour.
While office romances are generally considered risky, some employers go out of their way to hire couples, finding that employees with significant others in the same organization are often be more loyal and productive, Allison Curwen writes at SHRM: