Dealing with sexual harassment at work is not uncommon and many employers have enforced strict dating policies regarding employee relationships in the past. But some top companies are flipping the script.
While most companies ban employee relationships altogether, Airbnb, Facebook, and even Google have rolled out a new policy that’s simultaneously strict and welcoming at once: now, coworkers get one chance to ask their coworker out on a date.
“You can only ask another employee on a date once, and it can’t be someone in your chain of management, so not your boss or someone on your team,” explained an Airbnb employee to MarketWatch.
Should a coworker say no, this ensures that sexual harassment is avoided in the workplace. After all, more than 30% of cases presented to the EEOC were sex discrimination cases. Some coworkers will persist in asking out a coworker, even when they’re given a strident “no.”
Under Airbnb’s new policy, even a vague answer to getting asked out or half-hearted excuse counts as a no. This is an effort to avoid a hostile work environment where such harassment will deal with swift repercussions.
Many couples have met their future partner while taking a water break in the employee lounge, whether such work policies were in place or not. An outright ban can lead to hidden relationships where employees sneak off during work hours to get some alone time. While it’s recommended that we drink two liters of water a day, spending too much time at the water cooler to commune with their honey in the workplace is definitely frowned upon. Hidden relationships foster an unhealthy work environment and inevitably causes issues among employees.
It boils down to people in the same working environment sharing similar interests to one another. In many cases, it’s almost impossible to avoid catching feelings for a coworker with whom you get along well.
In fact, relationship expert Dr. Karen Philip notes that up to 28% of people meet their spouse at work. However, that doesn’t stop the need for relationship management, especially when it comes to power dynamics and harassment.
“You’re not going to stop that connection being created at work, but I think it’s very important that they set up policies to prevent harassment,” explains Philip. “I think it’s necessary. With the issues these days of workplace harassment, I think everyone had to do something.”
Adopting this new policy might be a good way for Airbnb to bolster itself for its impending IPO. Not only will this improve its reputation among investors, but it also covers the company from sexual harassment suits which can cost a business millions. In a Fortune 500 company, a single sexual harassment lawsuit could cost $6 million or more.
Google and Facebook have also adopted similar policies this year, training employees in a “no means no” attitude.
Netflix, however, might have taken concerns over harassment a little too far.
Last year, the media giant has reportedly adopted a stringent policy regarding all employee relationships. According to some sources, Netflix has banned employees from trading phone numbers or even looking at each other for more than five seconds at one time. Up to 73% of professionals think that a bad smile can hurt them, but this policy doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for interpersonal interactions, even at the professional level.
While Airbnb’s new policy isn’t that strict, it has opened itself up to skepticism. According to CBS Philly, some employees will miss the feeling of the chase.
“That would make me happy actually [if someone kept asking me out],” said one man. But one female coworker summed up the new law quite nicely.
“I think your workplace should be your safe space and it’s like you can only play with matches one time,” she explains.
Any more than that and it only makes sense that you’ll get burned.
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