Though Valentines Day is supposed to be a celebration of love and affection, (including posts to Tinder) it is also quite a money-making venture. According to sender.net, it is estimated that American’s will spend $26 billion celebrating Valentines Day in 2024.
Not to be outdone by the greeting card, candy and flower industry, the legal industry has also found a way to “cash-in” on the holiday. A law firm in Arkansas offered free uncontested divorces for Valentines Day – a $1,500.00 value. It is reported that some lawyers now use Tinder and Valentines Day to promote their legal services. The problem with advertising on Tinder or similar apps is how to provide the proper ethical disclosures. Does your profile page need to state: “swiping right does not create and attorney-client relationship.” Do you charge by the hour or is it a contingency fee based upon meeting the client’s “expectations.”
Leaving aside those questions, for the business owner, Valentines Day in the workplace can be akin to the St. Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago of 1929.
Regardless of Intent, Valentines Day can create claims of sexual harassment, disparate treatment and other workplace complications.
What is the Risk to the Employer?
1. Unwanted Gifts: Valentine’s Day encourages the exchange of gifts or cards. In the workplace, even the most innocent gift can be construed, not as a friendly overture, but as an unwanted romantic advance. This is especially true if a boss or supervisor gives a gift or card to a subordinate.
2. Peer Pressure: It is expected that if you receive a card or a gift that the recipient should return the favor, even in an office or business. The creates a situation where an employee may feel pressured to engage in Valentine’s Day activities, even though they do not want to.
3. Inappropriate Conduct: Using Valentine’s Day as an excuse, co-workers may choose to engage in inappropriate behavior, such as overly personal compliments or public displays of affection. This would not normally be tolerated; however, the co-worker uses Valentine’s Day as an excuse for their actions.
What Should an Employer Do?
To avoid becoming part of a Taylor Swift break-up video, companies should consider establishing clear rules and policies about Valentine’s Day, well in advance of February 14th.
- Is the exchange of gifts, cards, flowers or tokens allowed?
- If the company is planning some form of a Valentine’s Day celebration, make sure it is all inclusive and non-romantic in nature. Activities should focus on general themes of appreciation and teamwork versus romance.
While Valentine’s Day is a time for celebration, it is important to realize the potential for claims of harassment in the workplace. Companies need to consider creating policies which help ensure that the Valentine’s Day celebrations do not cross the line into inappropriate behavior.