Can you get fired for dating a coworker?

Most employment is generally at-will, so employers can fire an employee for dating a co-worker. However, if the co-worker you’re dating was not fired, the employer firing you could be considered gender discrimination, and you can file a lawsuit.

Author: Brad Nakase, Attorney

Email  |  Call (888) 600-8654

No employment law makes it unlawful to date a coworker so long as the relationship does not violate employment law on sexual harassment in the workplace. Romantic relationships are typically forbidden in the workplace due to the potential conflict and legal repercussions that may arise from dating coworkers. Before dating your coworker, check your company’s employee handbook policy to ensure no company policy prohibits coworkers. You can get fired if you’re dating a co-worker and the relationship is a disruption at work. When romance is in the workplace, an employer may be faced with distracted employees, gossips, and lovers’ bicker. After reading this article, please contact our California employment attorney for a free consultation on coworkers dating at work.

For example, would you be distracted if you saw your coworkers dating at work playing footsies under the table?

Relationships in the Workplace

Workplaces romances are naturally going to happen, but some employers may not like coworkers dating one another. From the viewpoint of an employer, if two employees at an office begin dating one another, it could lead to allegations of favoritism or a conflict of interest. However, under California law, an employee has a right to privacy when it comes to participating in lawful activity off the clock and off premises. This lawful activity includes dating coworkers.

But there are exceptions to coworker dating. In California, there is precedent that implies employers can ban certain types of relationships in the workplace. It may argued that romantic relationships can threaten workplace morale, security, efficiency, or supervision depending on the business. If the employer determines a relationship to be a legitimate threat to his or her business, he or she may be in the right to prohibit workplace relationships.

There is, for example, the issue of employees in supervisory positions dating subordinate coworkers. This creates legitimate problems for a workplace because in such a relationship there is an imbalance of power. This imbalance could create problems in the workplace, including the supervisor giving the subordinate unfair preference or engaging in favoritism. If the dating relationship does not work out, it is possible that the subordinate might accuse his or her superior of sexual harassment or discrimination. That kind of situation could result in the firing of the supervisor if the employer has a policy forbidding the dating of subordinates. In this case, the employer’s right to avoid business conflicts outweighs his supervisor’s right to privacy (a relationship with the subordinate).

Example A: Elizabeth is a supervisor at a company that produces CGI graphics for film studios. When she is put in charge of a new employee, Robbie, she can’t help but blush. Robbie is tall, blond, and gorgeous, as well as being around Elizabeth’s own age. Little does Elizabeth know, but Robbie feels the same way when he sees her. Two months later, Elizabeth and Robbie are dating. Because Elizabeth is Robbie’s supervisor, they try to keep their relationship hidden and not apparent at work. Still, Elizabeth can’t help but make Robbie her favorite, praising his designs and choosing them over other employees’. One day, another employee catches Robbie kissing Elizabeth in the parking lot. He tells the manager of the company, Lionel, who calls Elizabeth into his office. He explains that a supervisor-employee relationship is inappropriate, because not only is there a power imbalance between her and Robbie, but she is giving preferential treatment to one employee over others. To preserve fairness in the workplace, Lionel fires Elizabeth.

Example B: Rory works at a bookstore. When new employee Jess starts, she can’t help but fall for him. He’s a bad boy with a love for Catcher in the Rye and Kurt Vonnegut. It isn’t long before Rory and Jess start dating. When the owner of the shop spots Rory and Jess hanging around town together, he puts two and two together. He calls Rory in to see him and says, “Look, you’re a nice girl. But I’m worried that your relationship with Jess is affecting your work performance.” The thing is, Rory’s work performance has been entirely unchanged by her dating Jess. She says so. Her employer sighs and says that he has to let her go, because he doesn’t approve of employees dating. This is potentially unlawful, because in California, an employer can’t fire employees simply for dating, especially when there is no threat to the business, as in Rory’s case.

Protections for Employees

In California, an employee cannot be fired simply for dating a coworker. On the one hand, employers are allowed to have policies against flirting on the clock. That said, their say over what one does off-the-clock and outside work is limited. If an employer means to fire an employee, he or she has to have another rationale beyond the relationship, such as it causing a legitimate problem for the business or performance. However, if a romantic relationship in the workplace does not pose any legitimate threat to the business, and the dating coworkers behave appropriately at work, then an employer does not have grounds to fire either employee. If the issue were taken to court as a wrongful termination lawsuit, the dating coworkers would prevail in a lawsuit.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

See all blogs: Business | Corporate | Employment Law

Most recent blogs:

Is the patient or IHSS responsible for a caregiver wage?

This article highlights the legal protections and remedies available to caregivers for recovering unpaid wages, additional compensation, and late payment fees, demonstrating the legal channels caregivers can utilize to secure justice and proper payment.

How much money does a stripper make?

A stripper's earnings can range from $300 to $5,000 nightly or $6,000 to $100,000 monthly, influenced by factors such as location, attractiveness, skills, and the number of hours worked.

What does Job outlook mean and Why is it important?

A job outlook is a statement that project rate of growth or decline in employment for a position or occupation. Job outlook is important because it predicts if a career will grow or job availability for an occupation.

20 Types of Interviews and Tips to Succeed at Each

Interviews are pivotal in the hiring process, offering deeper insights into candidates' abilities. This article explores 20 common interview types, providing strategies for success. Preparation tips help candidates navigate each format, showcasing their qualifications effectively.

What is California Pay Transparency Law?

California's pay transparency law mandates businesses to publish pay ranges in job descriptions, aiming to eliminate wage disparities and promote equitable compensation practices. The law impacts both employers and employees by requiring transparent salary structures, prohibiting salary history inquiries, and empowering employees with the right to know and negotiate fair pay.

Employee Law in California

Employment law in California comprises a set of regulations and legal standards that govern the relationship between employers and employees in the state. These laws cover a wide range of areas including wage and hour requirements, anti-discrimination policies, workplace safety, and employee rights.

Laws that Prohibits Wrongful Termination

There are different types of federal and California laws that prohibit wrongful termination. This article identifies and discusses the different types of wrongful termination laws.

California Final Paycheck Law

Under California final paycheck law, a final paycheck must be given to an employee immediately at the time the employee is fired. A final paycheck must be given to an employee when the employee resigned from job.

Working Off the Clock: California Law

Working off the clock means that employees' work is not paid. Under California employment law, employees working off the clock without compensation is illegal.

What Is Job Displacement Benefits Workers Compensation?

If an injured worker cannot return to long-term work because of a permanent disability. Under California workers' comp, the worker may receive a supplemental job displacement benefit of $6,000 that the displaced worker can spend for job training and education.

How to call in sick to work?

When calling in sick to work, be direct and concise, stating your inability to come in due to illness. Inform your supervisor or HR the nature of your illness and when you expect to return.

Equal Pay Act: What is it?

The Equal Pay Act an employers from paying their workers less than employees of the opposite sex for similar or identical work.

Exotic Dancer License & Stripper License

It is unlawful to work as an adult entertainer without a stripper license, called a "adult entertainment permit. Therefore, knowing how to get your stripping license is necessary to work in a adult club.

What Is A Hostile Work Environment?

The law defines an unlawful hostile work environment to mean when a superior or coworker communication or behavior that is offensive, intimating, or discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, race, ethnicity, etc.

Can you take unpaid time off in California?

There is no legal requirement in California that an employer provide its employees with either paid or unpaid vacation time. However, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.

Contact our attorney.

Please tell us your story:

4 + 0 = ?

© Copyright | Nakase Law Firm (2019)