The Virginia Public School System, my new employer, faces many of the same issues as
any other work environment would. Relationships between co-workers have occurred in the past
and will continue to be a possibility in the future. The debate continues, however, as to the best
way to handle a situation that arises when the relationship advances or ends. Focus should firmly
be on the number of students who are influenced by the acts of the teachers and faculty in the
schools they attend. With that being said, definitive rules and guidelines must be established to
maintain a safe and proper atmosphere for all students and guests who may be in contact with
faculty members in this particular situation.
Arguments for a Consensual Relationship Agreements
The benefits of a Consensual Relationship Agreement within the Virginia School System
hold merit on several levels. The debate over workplace relationships has been an ongoing issue
for decades. Having an agreement in place offers the employer recourse in how they can handle
a bad situation if things do not work out for the couple as they had planned (Kuntz, 1998).
Attention remains focused on the student
Whether the relationship moves forward or ends. With a CRA in place, the attention
always remains focused on the students and their education. Partners in a consensual relationship
agree to put their relationship outside of the boundaries of the school environment. This allows
the bulk of their attention to be on their jobs as they interact with student and faculty members
on a day to day basis.
Little disruption in a person’s work ethic
CRAs set strict guidelines as to what behavior is acceptable in the work place. When an
employee agrees to the conditions put forward in the CRA, they are admitting they agree to the
terms of the contract and will abide by them at all cost. Their dedication to living up to the
agreement as it is written, will keep disruptions to a minimum and the teachers firmly committed
to their jobs and the needs of their students (“Can A “Love Contract”, 2012).
Guidelines establish a firm foundation to work from
Guidelines established by the CRA allows an employer to take action against an
employee if they are willing to violate the stipulations of the contract. Employers are allowed to
intervene if a relationship gets to the point where it is disrupting the employee’s work
performance or the relationship is affecting the students and staff. Public displays of affection
and verbal arguments can have a definitive impact on an employee’s co-workers as well as the
students they are supposed to be teaching.
An improved attitude towards work – Faculty members who are in committed
relationships, either with co-workers or individuals outside of the workplace, tend to have a
better attitude in relationship to work. Individuals who are fulfilled in other areas of their lives
often are more positive about working and their dedication to their job.
Reasons to Avoid Consensual Relationship Agreements
Many companies choose to not to use Consensual Relationship Agreements. Each
organization has its own reasons for doing so, but the following are common. It must also be said
that not every company is in a position to need such agreements (“Love Contracts”, 2012).
Increases the privacy of the employee
Consensual Relationship Agreements are in place to allow the management to intercede
if the couple’s relationship begins to negatively impact the workplace. Without one in place, the
most an employer can do is ask for information and issue warnings and punishment if office
rules are broken. If the couple intends to keep their relationship private, management cannot help
mediate between the two parties if things go bad. In the worse case scenario, of the two lovers
will be terminated for violating general office policy.
Limits the rights of all parties involved
Without a CRA in place, both employees and management are limited when it comes to
their rights. If an employee refuses to disclose whether or not they are in a consensual
relationship, management may terminate their contract for the simple fact that their job is
suffering for unknown reasons. An employee may be able to pursue a sexual harassment lawsuit
more easily if no CRA is in place, but without the CRA, members of management could retaliate
by terminating their employment and stripping them of all benefits. The employee would have
little recourse to pursue being compensated for their loss (Elgass, 1994).
Depending on how they are written CRAs may be too restrictive
Depending on the language of the CRA, it could grant the employer excessive amounts
of power in controlling the employees involved. Consensual Relationship Agreements are basic
contracts that are binding and enforceable in a court of law. If an employee agrees to sign it, they
are held to those standards and guidelines and often relinquish the right to pursue legal action if
they are found to be in violation.
Reduces the number of applicants who wish to seek employment with the school system
When seeking to fill positions within the system, qualified applicants may choose to go
elsewhere if they have to sign a Consensual Relationship Agreement. Employees new to the
system may not agree with the policy of having to disclose important details concerning their
private lives, including who they are having sexual relations or any other type of relationship. In
some cases, they may look at the signing of a CRA as a violation of their Constitutional rights
and refuse to finish the application process.
Guidelines are already well established within the Code of Conduct of the business
If strict guidelines are already in place that address issues such as public displays of
affection, arguments and inappropriate behavior, there would be no need for a CRA. The
guidelines as they are written would act in the same basic capacity as a CRA. The employee’s
signature agreeing to the contents of the Code would suffice in a situation where an office
romance was the cause of an issue or disruption.
Ethical Principals for the Use of CRAs
Ethics plays an important role when workplace relationships are being discussed. While
the matter at hand seems to be primarily a personal one, the impact and ramifications of its
existence in the workplace leaves the door open for a wide range of behaviors, both ethical and
A Consensual Relationship Agreement would restrict a member of management who is
having a sexual or consensual relationship with a subordinate from treating them differently than
their co-workers. For example, a teacher who is in a relationship with a principal would still
receive a write-up or be reported for not calling in if they chose not to come into work that day.
The co-worker would still be required to call in and report her or his intended absence for the
day (Pierce & Aguinis, 2009).
Sexual harassment as well as other forms of bullying would also be addressed in a CRA.
Individuals who signed an agreement once they had entered into a relationship cannot claim
sexual harassment against another employee. However, if the relationship ended and the
agreement was also terminated, any continued harassment or unwanted attention by either party
could be addressed by management and corrective actions can be taken.
Rewards or means of advancement
With a CRA in place, members of management could not reward their significant others
with promotions or bonuses unless they met the same terms as other applicants. Any rewards
given out of place would be investigated and actions taken against the member of management
who had violated the CRA. If the partner of a member of management became eligible for a
specific reward, promotion or bonus, they would have to meet the requirements put in place to
receive it. In some cases, the member of management may defer making the choice to another
member of management to make sure the process remains fair and unbiased towards all
candidates who have applied to receive it.
Right to privacy
A Consensual Relationship Agreement ensures both management and employees the
right to privacy as long each side keeps to their end of the contract. Couples are not forced to
disclose the details of their relationship or its status unless it is their choice to do so. While they
are admitting to a relationship by signing the CRA, they have volition over the extent of
knowledge the employer has about the relationship. A CRA also implies the couple’s right to
privacy is lost once they enter the work environment. It is up to the couple to secure a private
location for personal and intimate communications outside of the school system. Any
conversation held within ear shot of other staff members can be reported to the school board or
other members of management if it is deemed inappropriate (“Relationships in the Workplace”,
Possible Options Other than CRAs
A zero tolerance policy is one option to having to implement a Consensual Relationship
Agreement. If a zero tolerance policy is put in place, one of the partners would have to be
terminated or leave voluntarily. This would reduce the risk of students being exposed to various
types of unethical and inappropriate behaviors, in addition to limiting sexual harassment and
favoritism on behalf of management.
Another option would be to include provisions often found in a Consensual Relationship
Agreement in the Code of Conduct and Employee Handbook an employee must review and sign
when they are hired. Having a stricter set of rules and regulations in place within the general
context of a person’s contract would eliminate the need for a CRA. Employees must agree to all
provisions within both the Handbook and the Code of Conduct to be hired into the school
system. Due to the constant exposure to students and their impressionable nature, a school
system must have all of the tools in place to maintain an ethical and reputable work environment.
School systems, like any other employer, will eventually have to deal with romance in
the workplace. The impact of an office romance on the students who attend the school will be
determined by how the couple and members of management handle the situation. Couples who
are respectful towards one another and their employer will have a positive influence on all
involved. It is up to management to ensure at all costs, the students’ right to an education and the
work ethic of other staff members are not jeopardized by a couple and the various behaviors they
exhibit during the hours they spend at work. By incorporating the use of a CRA, school officials
and members of management can control how a couple’s actions affect the reputation of the
school as well as everyone they come in contact with. Couples who abide by the stipulations of
the contract show not only the effects of a healthy relationship but one that encourages a positive
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