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Beware of Cupid in the Cubicles

Valentine's Day is just around the corner.  It's estimated that 190 million Valentine cards and 15 million e-Valentines were sent in the U.S. last year. But when a love-sick employee sends a written expression of love to an unrequitting co-worker, trouble often follows. Here are a few real-world examples from published court cases.    

  • An employee sued after her co-worker harassed her, including sending her a card that said, “On Valentine’s Day, remember – candy is dandy . . . but sex won’t rot your teeth!  So what do you say!”
  • A male employee made a harassment claim over his female supervisor’s conduct, which included an incident on February 12 where the supervisor held a bottle of pink lotion, saying she was “going to have a great time on Valentine’s Day,” and asking the employee if he would like to try some of the lotion.
  • An employee claimed harassment regarding her supervisor’s conduct, which included giving her a Valentine’s Day card with a $50 bill in it. 
  • An employee sued after her supervisor posted a Valentine’s Day message to her in the town newspaper, which stated in part, “Dear Sgt., Spring is right around the corner, just like me. Look outside, see a Robin by the tree. Love Azalea.” 
  • A female employee claimed a male co-worker harassed her, starting when he gave her a Valentine’s Day card. The male co-worker told the female employee that he stayed up until 2:00 a.m. trying to decide what to write on the valentine.
  • A secretary brought a sexual harassment claim against her employer for her supervisor’s conduct, which included him giving her a Valentine’s Day card that read, “But somehow it seems only right to say, today of all days, you’re someone close in thought and heart, not ‘now and then,’ but always.”
  • An employee carried on a romantic relationship with her supervisor for several years, claiming she feared losing her job if she didn’t continue.  But the last straw came on Valentine’s Day, she said, when the boss sent her a card reading, “I can’t imagine loving you more than I do today . . . but tomorrow I will.  Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweetheart.” 
Not all of these incidents resulted in successful claims for the employees.  But it is likely the employers nevertheless wished Cupid hadn’t visited the workplace at all.  Valentine’s Day is a good time to review your anti-harassment policy and your company’s stance on inter-office romances to ensure that your employees know that some sentiments are better left unshared between co-workers.



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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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