Is it Legal For Two Employees to Have a Romantic Relationship?

Photo by hugh.carlow - http://flic.kr/p/6PrNZU - For illustration only

Reader’s Question

Is it legal to be in a relationship between manager and customer service representative (CSR)? It is unfair to the other employees?

Psychologist’s Reply

If something is “illegal” — it is a violation of law. Violation is the key word here. A relationship between a manager and a CSR is not illegal as the relationship violates no federal or state law. We are allowed to have relationships with just about anyone. In fact, in the majority of states in the US, even adultery is not illegal as it is not a criminal act. Adultery, however, is often considered an important part of legal actions such as divorce, separation, child support, etc. Some states in the US may allow civil legal actions based on “alienation of affection”. In almost every legal area however, that relationship is not “Illegal” or considered criminal.

Here’s the issue. Employees have two sets of legal rules and obligations. First, all employees must obey the laws of the country, state, county and city where they are employed. Second, and here’s the issue, all employers and companies have written policies that become the rules of conduct for that specific company. In the US, companies have tried to address the issues of romantic relationships between employees for years. Situations like you are describing are often a “violation” of company policy. Here are some of the company policies I’ve seen:

  • Some companies/workplaces prohibit romantic relationships between employees — especially if they are obvious to other employees.
  • Some companies acknowledge that people fall in love at work — but you cannot have a romance in the same line of supervision or authority. You can’t have a relationship with someone you supervise for example. If the manager supervises the customer service representative — he may be in violation of the company policy — but not the state/federal law.
  • Some companies require that married or romantically involved couple work in separate areas, under separate supervisors, and at times in separate locations. It’s not uncommon for a couple to be assigned to work at different stores/businesses once their relationship is discovered.
  • Employees who violate these policies can be suspended, counseled, transferred or terminated. They cannot be charged with a criminal offense. They lose their job — but have no jail time.
  • In these situations, the additional aspect of the romance being an “affair” or adultery is not considered.

Try Online Counseling: Get Personally Matched
(Please read our important explanation below.)

Is it unfair to other employees? It can be very unfair, which is why there are work policies against it. The unfairness usually involves issues of supervision, fair treatment, and promotion. A co-worker having an affair with a mutual supervisor has an unfair advantage that is not job-performance related when it comes to promotions or fair treatment.

Another reality is that romantic relationships of this type are often bad for employee morale. They create lots of rumors and suspicions that detract from job responsibilities. As many politicians and famous people have discovered over the years, an affair or adultery won’t place you in jail but it often ruins your career, credentials, reputation, family life, finances, and future.

Please read our Important Disclaimer.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. Originally published by on and last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Ask the Psychologist provides direct access to qualified clinical psychologists ready to answer your questions. It is overseen by the same international advisory board of distinguished academic faculty and mental health professionals — with decades of clinical and research experience in the US, UK and Europe — that delivers CounsellingResource.com, providing peer-reviewed mental health information you can trust. Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. CounsellingResource.com is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation.

Copyright © 2021.