I Love You (A Valentine’s Day Warning)
Posted 02.14.12
Jonathan A. Segal

As originally published by SHRM’s “We Know Next” found here.

I Love You

It is 9 am.  The secretary reports to her desk.  Waiting for her is a sealed card.

The secretary opens the envelope and it is a Valentine’s card from her manager.  Having undergone sensitivity training, the manager signs it “fondly” as opposed to “lovingly.”

The employee is creeped out and goes to HR.  HR talks with the manager based on a script we had prepared together.

HR asks the manager if he knows why the card is inappropriate.  He responds “no.”

HR asks the manager to whom else he gave a Valentine’s card and he answers his wife.  Again, it is asked:  do you know why card was inappropriate?  Again, he answers “no.”

We now take out the crow bar.  Is there anything you do with your wife in privacy that you don’t do with secretary?  Ding.  Ding. Ding.

Every year, we get 1 or 2 calls about harassment claims arising out of Valentine’s Day cards.  Employees can be so sensitive when their bosses tell them:

To the love of my life

I cherish our moments together

I love you

Recommendation:  no Valentine’s day cards at work.  This is particularly true in terms of supervisory-subordinate relationships.

Of course, that does not mean that everyone who sends a Valentine’s day card is intending to convey a romantic message.  After all, there are now Valentine’s day cards for parents, kids, etc.

For some, the Valentine’s day card is simply a way to say you are important to me.  The problem is the nature of the holiday may confuse the reason as to why the employee is important.

Make clear to your employees, by your words and actions, how important they are to the organization.  Recognition and appreciation are the vitamins employees need every day. Just don’t tell them that they are the loves of your life. Unless you want a plaintiffs’ lawyer to fall in love with you.

This blog should not be construed as legal advice, pertaining to specific factual situation or establishing an attorney-client relationship.

About Jonathan A. Segal
Jonathan A. Segal is a partner at Duane Morris LLP in the Employment Group. He is also the managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute. The Duane Morris Institute provides training for human resource professionals, in-house counsel, and other leaders at client sites and by way of webinar on myriad employment, leadership labor, benefits and immigration topics. Jonathan has served intermittently as a consultant to the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years, providing training on employment issues to federal judges around the country. Jonathan also has provided training on harassment on behalf of the EEOC as well as providing training on diversity to members of the United States intelligence agencies. Jonathan is also frequently a featured speaker at national, state and local human resource, business and legal conferences, including conferences sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Pennsylvania State Chamber of Business and Industry. Jonathan’s practice focuses on maximizing compliance and minimizing legal risk. Jonathan’s particular areas of emphasis include: equal employment opportunity in general and gender equality in particular: social media; wage and hour; performance management; talent acquisition; harassment prevention and correction; and non-competes and other ways to protect your business. You can find him on Twitter @Jonathan_HR_Law .