Love at work: When a romantic relationship between colleagues means the end of your career

“A love affair in the company: McDonald’s CEO shooting in Easterbrook.” The US fast food company recently made international headlines with this news violating company regulations, and McDonald’s justified the supervisory board’s decision – which Easterbrook is said to have accepted without hesitation.

In the United States, prohibitions on love and courtship are very common in employment contracts. Fear of costly sexual harassment lawsuits pushes US companies to either prevent relationships from starting from the beginning or to offer couples so-called love contracts, under which both partners assert that their relationship is consensual. Austria is still very far from American conditions, but is separation due to a romantic relationship conceivable under Austrian law?

Labor law expert Verena Stipuler of the Styrian Chamber of Labor explains: “In principle, a love affair in the workplace is not in itself a reason for dismissal, and the company cannot prevent employees from having romantic relationships either. That would be an infringement on The general Personal rights contained in paragraph 16 of the General Civil Code, Which, according to the Supreme Court, includes the right to determine relations with our fellow human beings according to their own will. Contractual provisions that violate this right are immoral and therefore void.
A romantic relationship between employees alone cannot be a reason for dismissal in Austria. This requires other circumstances, for example, dismissal Untrustworthy and is achieved. Specifically, Stiboller cites OGH’s decision regarding the legal dismissal of an employee who did not report the theft committed by her colleague, with whom she was in a relationship, thus giving him the opportunity to commit further thefts. “Another decision of the Supreme Court concerns an employee who allowed her banned friend, who was also an employee of the company, to enter the company’s premises without permission.”

office sex

Courts have also frequently taken up the issue of “sex during working hours.” Stiboller says: “Sexual intercourse during working hours Could be grounds for dismissal. In the case of an employee who regularly had sex with an office colleague during working hours, the Supreme Court considered dismissal to be justified.”
From a legal point of view, colleagues who have naturally become a couple have a certain amount of leeway when it comes to mutual affection in the workplace, which can only be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Basically there too There is no obligation to report or notify Internal relationships, Stipoller asserts. “But it becomes problematic in horoscopes where, for example, the principle of the Four Eyes is bypassed or another conflict of interest is threatened,” the expert says. Then, due to the employer’s duty of loyalty, it may be necessary to inform the employer of the relationship.

separated by offset

Loving spouses whose behavior negatively affects the working atmosphere of their company can be separated by transfer. The employer has one duty of care towards his employees. In other words: if the working atmosphere deteriorates significantly as a result of the employee’s behavior, he must take action. However, transfers are only possible within the framework specified in the employment contract. In addition, deteriorating transfers require long-term Labor Council approval – if any,” Stipoller emphasizes.

Where love relationships arise, of course, wars of roses can break out, too. “The practice of counseling shows that it becomes really problematic when the relationship ends on one side and the other part wants to continue – there is often one sexual harassment In the room if appropriate measures are taken at the workplace.” Then, according to the Law on Equal Treatment, compensation can also be claimed. “We continue to return to the topic of“ supervisors with colleagues ”: the relationship ends and the supervisor wants to get rid of the colleague at work. advance payment Progress. But there is also one possibility challenge: “A lot of soiled clothes are washed in court, just like in divorce proceedings. We always try to solve these stories out of court.”

On the question of whether the separation or divorce of spouses who work in the same company can be grounds for separation, the legal expert says: “Like an affair, separation in itself is not grounds for separation.” As for the dismissal, something serious must happen in connection with the dismissal that affects the interests of the company or is a violation of duty to the employer. Of course, this cannot be said in general terms when the class actually exists. This can only be clarified in individual cases.

End of last resort

When the quality of work and the atmosphere of work are affected as a result of a romantic relationship at work or the separation of a married couple in a dispute, but there are no grounds for separation, there is, of course, the possibility of terminating the working relationship by termination – but always according to legal deadlines. Terminations should not be justified.

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