Intel announced Thursday that its CEO was stepping down after confirming that it was violating a "non-fraternization" policy in place since 2011, revealing that its CEO and advocate of his corporate diversity initiatives had a "past consensual relationship with Intel employee."
Yet, in the #MeToo era, more and more companies are adding similar policies or asking their lawyers to review them, they say, while they worry about the increased surveillance and increasing risks they face in the flood of reported cases of sexual harassment.
"We have a much greater interest in this area, "said Jonathan Segal, Ph.D.I see more companies asking questions about them. I see more and more companies adding them to their anti-harassment policies. J & # 39; I seen more companies look at them in their codes of conduct ".
Labor lawyers have described a non-fraternization policy such as that of Intel, which limits sex or love between managers and employees, which they directly or indirectly manage, as relatively common.
However, many other businesses have not added them or avoided the general policies that prohibit romantic relationships more generally in the workplace, as they can be difficult to apply, run into a more casual workplace and are open 24 hours a day. and risk giving the impression of the employer. "big brother" who does not trust his workers.
Increased interest in adding "intimate relationships" or "relationships in the workplace" policies follows a period in which companies encouraged more informal workplaces, particularly in the workplace. adding beer refrigerators to the office, planning social outings and fostering cultures that are conducive to a mentality 24/7.
"I think the pendulum has shifted to where now, in the past five to ten years, cool startups have to be places where everyone comes to have fun," said Patty McCord, consultant and former head of human resources at Netflix. "You are nWe confuse what you do in bars with what you do at work. "
Lawyers and human resources experts say that, along with the introduction of an informal and permanent work culture, some companies have added provisions that allow employees to report or reveal intimate peer relationships.
But these policies – or on the flip side, general prohibitions of all relationships – can be fraught with "all kinds of perils," said Amy Bess, a labor lawyer who recently asked conference attendees if she was considering adding such a system. politics, people across the room raised their hands. Employers can not only "appear to be heavy and intrusive [employees’] private lives, "she said, but" if you try to do it with a couple you know, you will hear this and that, and you do not advise them. It's very difficult to conduct consistently. "
As for the relationship between managers and subordinates, it is more essential that companies have a clear policy, she explained, as well as other lawyers. On the one hand, relationships may be consensual at first, but they do not always end that way.
"J & # 39; I Debra Katz, a Washington-based lawyer who represents employees in numerous workplace harassment and discrimination cases, has been involved in dozens and dozens of cases of sexual harassment that started out as consensual.
And even if a relationship seems to be on an equal footing, it is seldom in a workplace where two people have different levels of power, influence, or status.
"PSegal said, "The power is still relevant," said Segal.
As far as CEOs are concerned, the different levels of power are even more pronounced because each employee ultimately reports to the CEO. The relationship between company manager and employees not only raises issues of patronage among employees, but also broader management issues regarding the arrogance, breach of trust or credibility of the code of conduct. conducting a business.
"It goes without saying that for a CEO, who is the absolute leader of an organization, this would be the number one rule," Bess said.
Charles Elson, director of a corporate governance center at the University of Delaware, said that Krzanich's departure was appropriate, particularly as a result of the #MeToo move. For CEOs, "you can not say that the rules apply to everyone except you," he said. "Fraternization is a petri dish that can lead to other problems, including harassment."
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