“Status: in a relationship”- love at work and your consequences

"A new love is like a new life…" Those who now have the right song on their lips should sooner or later keep a cool head. At least when love begins at the workplace.

Love ban ineffective

Take a breath in advance: the employer can not prohibit love relationships between employees. What’s in the U.S.A. by corresponding instructions or so-called "ethics guidelines" is common practice, does not work in German labor law. He who loves is first right. The U.S. retailer Wal-Mart also had to experience this. The latter had forbidden his employees in Germany to go out with colleagues or start a relationship. However, the German labor courts clearly said on this matter "No!". They confirmed that love relationships among colleagues are protected by the fundamental right to free development of personality, Article 2(1) of the Basic Law.

Maintain etiquette and remain serious

But be careful: Drunk with love, you should not do anything stupid in terms of labor law. This includes, for example, hot kisses or more in the office, private WhatsApp, SMS (Does anyone actually still write them nowadays?), or other messages?) or e-mail fire during working hours or fremdschamendes display of their own happiness. And please stick to the matter at hand, i.e. to your work – even if it is hard to do so. If the love affair has a demonstrably detrimental effect on work performance, the employer can issue a warning to the lovers. And a warning always prepares a behavior-related dismissal under the law on protection against unfair dismissal. In the repetition case the employer is in principle to the tidy and if necessary. even entitled to termination without notice.


Every third marriage today begins in the same company. What are the legal aspects of love in the workplace??

Many employers who learn of amorous relationships among employees react to this with simple organizational changes that can hurt no less in individual cases. The lovers are suddenly given other tasks, are spatially separated or immediately transferred to different locations. In terms of labor law, the question then arises as to whether this is a proportionate instruction or a permissible transfer. In individual cases, such measures must be based on the provisions of the employment contract, which may or may not be in force. The existing company agreements or the collective bargaining agreements or. be measured against the limits of the statutory right to issue instructions under Section 106 sentences 1 and 2 of the Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act (Gewerbeordnung). If the employer only acts this way for the sake of love, such measures will usually be ineffective.

Discretion in the workplace

One should make one’s love public? Every couple must answer this question for themselves and carefully consider the circumstances at the workplace beforehand. Honesty is not always the best policy, but can quickly become a social boomerang if there are more enviers than patrons in the company. Although the lovers are well protected under labor law as long as they do not misbehave. In case of doubt, however, this does not protect one from slander or social exclusion, which can go as far as mobbing or bossing. Defending oneself against this is possible under labor law, but it costs energy. This does not usually leave love unscathed. On the other hand, if the love affair is solidified, it may make sense to communicate this briefly and factually. Anyone who observes the aforementioned etiquette and remains serious in the workplace despite all emotional exuberance has nothing to fear from the point of view of labor law. In the best case, you can prevent blasphemy or social exclusion with the openness that is necessary in each individual case.

As a practitioner of employment law, however, I almost always advise discretion, as long as you do not walk down the aisle. In addition, some employers do not address love in the workplace directly, but rather from other, z.B. If a company terminates the employment of one or both lovers for operational reasons, even if these reasons are only pretextual. Of course, one should also defend oneself against such a dismissal in this case. The damage of a strained working relationship is however first of all there. A good employer will seek dialogue with the lovers before their behavior has a negative impact on the working atmosphere.

Help, I love my boss

The same rules apply to love relationships between superiors and subordinates. From a purely labor law point of view, the relationship with the boss is also permitted. Due to the relationship of dependency between superiors and subordinates, however, these love relationships are particularly delicate. Envy, resentment and the fear of colleagues of preferential treatment of the chosen one are pre-programmed. Here, too, the only thing that helps is to make a strict distinction between one’s professional and private life, to offer as little room for attack as possible, and to remain as discreet as possible. One thing supervisors may not do under any circumstances is to exploit the professional relationship of dependence, wherein there is always a danger in a private love affair with subordinates. In this case, the employer has a special duty of care, which he can fulfill through measures under labor law, e.g.B. a warning, should enforce.

A good ending decorates everything

Whether the love relationship was worth something, you know at the latest, as soon as it breaks up again. Also then the hormones play usually crazy, even if unfortunately with negative omens. Tragic heartbreak and relationship stress have no place in the workplace. The same applies here in terms of labor law as in the days of butterflies in the stomach. So please keep the etiquette, stay serious and as discreet as possible, do not neglect his work and in case of separation do not have a thermonuclear war of the Roses. And looking ahead. Because a new love is sure to come.


Mathias R. Mayer, Hamburg
Our author is a specialist lawyer for labor law and works nationwide exclusively in labor law for employers, employees, managers and works councils. In addition to his traditional legal work, he regularly trains in seminars of several days on all issues of individual and collective labor law.

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