Labour & Employment Law Blog

The Office Romance

The Office Romance

The #metoo movement has had a major impact on how employers react to “office romances” in the workplace.  Previously, employers may have simply discouraged or even ignored workplace romances, dating, flirting, etc. However, those attitudes by employers are changing as “office romances” may now come with serious liability attached to it for the employer especially if the “office romance” involves employees where one is a subordinate and the other is a superior.

So what should an employer do?  Should they ban dating at the office?  Should they fire an employee who engages in an “office romance”?

The first step for an employer is to ensure (as much as they can) that their workplace is free of workplace harassment and discrimination in an effort to minimize their potential liability.  This does not mean that they have to ban “office romances” or workplace dating.  However, it does mean that they need to put in place certain workplace policies that speak to these issues.  A typical policy should deal with 1) what type of romantic or intimate relationships are banned, 2) what would constitute inappropriate behaviors related to harassment in the workplace, 3) what would create a conflict of interest and how the employer would address those conflicts and 4) how the policy will be enforced.  For instance, many workplace policies will have certain provisions detailing what will happen if an employee breaches the policy. Employers also have to be mindful of their obligations not to discriminate against employees under the Ontario Human Rights Code, 1990. For instance, barring inappropriate public displays of affection, spouses working together may be protected by the Code under the family and marital status grounds.

Most importantly, any workplace policy dealing with “office romances” must have effective and clear terms about workplace harassment.  The workplace policy must set out how an employer is to learn about a complaint of workplace harassment and what procedures are in place to investigate the complaint and how a resolution will be reached.  The employer should think seriously about possibly using professional training for its employees so that employees may be able to more effectively address complaints about workplace harassment.

Therefore, whether or not an employer can terminate an employee for engaging in an “office romance” will be generally dependent on what provisions are contained within the workplace policy and on the context of the employment relationship as a whole.  However, if the employer does not have a workplace policy related to these issues, the courts may look at certain factors to determine if the employee should be terminated for cause because of behaviours related to an “office romance.”  For instance, the court may look to see if the relationship was in fact consensual.  The court may also look to see if there was any conflict of interest related to the “office romance” that could lead to a termination for cause.   The court may look to see if the “office romance” was a potential negative issue for other employees such as it being the cause of certain workplace disruptions or disputes or even poor performance.

Finally, if an employer has any questions about how the above could affect them, it is important to contact an employment lawyer to obtain assistance.

The above article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal advice or create a solicitor-client relationship. Because each case is unique and factually driven, if you have concerns with regard to the foregoing issues, please make an appointment with one of our lawyers or a qualified legal practitioner elsewhere. We represent clients in the Greater Toronto Area including Toronto, North York, Markham, Vaughan, Thornhill, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Mississauga, Barrie, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa.

Legal Receptionist

Zeilikman Law is an employment law firm located in Vaughan, Ontario. We are looking to hire a legal receptionist to join our firm. Preference will be given to candidates who have experience working as a receptionist at another law firm.

Location: Vaughan, Ontario.

Start Date: Immediately.

Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. Full time. In-person only. This is not a remote work position.

Wages: 35,000 to 40,000 per year.

Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Manage our firm’s multi-line telephone system to receive incoming calls.  Screen incoming telephone call inquiries to determine the nature of the telephone call and provide standard information related to our legal services.  Take and deliver messages and route incoming telephone calls to the appropriate staff person.
  • Answer general inquiries coming from the firm’s social media and website email.
  • Welcome in-person visitors upon arrival.  Direct visitors to the appropriate staff person and / or office or boardroom.
  • Organize in-person visitor schedule to prevent overlap and multiple bookings.
  • Receive, sort, and distribute daily mail and deliveries.
  • Arrange for couriers.
  • Keep front reception, kitchenette area and boardroom tidy.
  • Perform various clerical duties such as filing, photocopying, and faxing on an as-needed basis.
  • Process client or other payments.
  • May be asked to run minor errands outside of office such as attending post office to arrange a courier or pick up mail.
  • May be asked to assist other law clerks or lawyers of the firm as required and as appropriate.
  • Any other basic administrative duties or tasks as deemed appropriate.

Required Skills:

  • Basic knowledge of general office procedures including filing, faxing, and printing and copying.
  • Basic word processing computer skills.
  • Proficient in receptionist and telephone practices, etiquette, and decorum.
  • Professional attitude and appearance.
  • Excellent organizational skills.
  • Positive customer service attitude is a must.
  • Must be able to maintain confidential and sensitive information.

Education and Experience:

  • Highschool diploma or equivalent.
  • 1 – 2 years’ experience in an office setting with an emphasis in accounting, reception or clerical work is required.   We would prefer experience in a law firm environment.

Applications for this position should be sent via email to jennifer@zeilikmanlaw.com. All applications should include a cover letter, resume and at least two references. Only successful candidates will be contacted.