Fraternization occurs when two people employed by the same company interact socially outside of work and at employer functions. Depending on your company's policy, fraternization can include romantic relations between managers and subordinates and relationships between co-workers. Fraternization in the workplace is often frowned upon because it can negatively affect work performance and might compromise the integrity of the company. Workflow disruptions and charges of favoritism often arise with employee fraternization. You may get fired if the fraternization interferes with your work or goes against company policy.
Many companies have policies designed specifically to combat fraternization. These policies are enforced by management and human resources departments. Check your employee handbook to see what your company's policy is if you are concerned about fraternization. Some companies have policies that employees who fraternize, even if it does not disrupt their work, can be fired without any further discussion.
Nature of Fraternization
Fraternization can occur on different levels. It is normal for friendships to develop in the workplace. Fraternization policies exist to encourage employees to keep these friendships professional at work. Meeting up with co-workers and managers outside of work for a drink or dinner does not cross the line into fraternization unless it results in favoritism or leads to inappropriate romantic relationships. While being friends with a co-worker doesn't mean you can be fired from your job, you could get fired if your relationship causes a disruption at work. Rather than risk losing a job for your relationship, keep all of your personal relationships out of the workplace, even if they are with co-workers.
Legal issues can arise when fraternization becomes a problem in the workplace. Fraternization can become a sexual harassment lawsuit if the relationship ends badly. In companies where there is no formal fraternization policy but an employee is fired for fraternization, the fired employee could respond with a wrongful termination lawsuit. A former employee can sue for wrongful termination in the event that he is fired without cause, unless his employment contract states that he is an "at will" employee. At-will employees can terminate their employment or be terminated at any time for any reason. Companies may try to solve problems caused by fraternization by moving employees to another department or giving the involved employees a written warning before resorting to terminating employees.
Breach of Contract
Breaking fraternization policy rules that are strictly enforced can result in being fired for breach of contract. When new employees are hired they may be given an employment contract to sign. Once the contract is signed, both the employer and employee are obligated to abide by its terms. Fraternization clauses can be written into the contract. It is up to the employee to read and understand the policies. It can be a cause for dismissal if an employee does not conform to all company policies.
Article source: work.chron.com