Love Contracts: Perhaps A Lovely Idea for Any Office

If you’ve watched "The Office," you know how workplace romance can complicate things. Who amongst us hasn’t seen that same old story in our own office: a guy is engaged to a coworker, while a temp/former corporate executive dates his cube neighbor/ex-girlfriend, and then another guy is engaged to another girl, but she also makes out with the annoying guy in the office who owns a beet farm and has a cousin named Mose who runs without using his arms. It’s almost trite.

But what are the legal ramifications and what can employers do about it? Apparently, love contracts are now an option. Inside INdiana Business has the scoop:

A partner at Bose McKinney & Evans is recommending companies consider "love contracts" to protect their businesses and employees from the troubles that can come out of an office romance. Dave Swider says often employers don’t feel comfortable governing employee relationships, so these documents set the parameters for workplace romance. Employees who have or are about to enter a relationship would sign documents acknowledging it is consensual, along with ground rules for office behavior and sexual harassment policies. Swider says the contracts also protect employers by stating they will not retaliate nor discriminate if the relationship goes south.

And if you’re an HR specialist, or just someone who’s so attractive that you can’t keep coworkers from hitting on you, you might find useful related information in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Guide to Preventing Workplace Harassment, authored by attorneys at Ogletree Deakins. We also have a Harassment Kit available, as well. I guarantee you’ll love this information — but not too much or you’ll have to sign a contract.

Small Business Owners Deal with Crisis

How are small business owners dealing with the latest financial crisis? How do they know if their bank is failing? What if they have a loan that is taken over by the FDIC or is acquired by a competitor? How could "Alf" speak English so well? You’re telling me the guy is from Melmac, eats cats and has the face of a bull terrier, yet he can pontificate like Oscar Wilde?

BusinessWeek responded to three of these pressing questions in a recent article focused on the impact the recent financial goings on have had on American small businesses. The article touches on the status and trends of banks, credit unions, loans and other information that could be useful to know:

While the financial crisis doesn’t necessarily affect the small business sector directly, economic pessimism and fears about winter fuel costs are likely to sap consumer confidence for some time. "Entrepreneurs should be mentally and financially prepared to hunker down in this economy for a couple of years," Thacker says. "The downturn that started a year ago could last another two Christmas seasons. I’m hoping its going to be less time than that, but people are worried."

Shameless plug: For those truly interested in helping their small business thrive, the Indiana Chamber offers Building a Business in Indiana. This publication, authored by attorneys at Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, walks new business owners through myriad trials and issues regarding a new business — things like protecting your company, taking advantage of the available tax credits and grants, legal obligations to employees, tax status and much more.

Book Explains Flex Time, Includes Many Employee Policies

It’s been estimated that employees now spend at least 100 hours each year commuting to work. Because of this, flexible work arrangements are becoming more popular among staff and are being utilized by more employers to lower turnover.

Be sure you have a policy in place to meet the needs, or at least "wants," of your staff. Page 129 of the Indiana Chamber’s Model Employee Policies for Indiana Employers addresses telecommuting policy, and the entire book also provides detailed sample policies that could work for your business.

Written by Bose McKinney & Evans, this book is designed to help employers understand the legal implications of an organization’s written policies and procedures, the costs and benefits of placing informal practices in an employee handbook and how to communicate an organization’s values and goals. It includes a compilation of legal commentary as well.

Build a Better Business

Building a Business

In today’s poor economic environment, businesses all across the state (and beyond) are seeking ways to cut costs. One department where your company can control costs is employee benefits.

Turn to the Indiana Chamber’s publication, Building a Business in Indiana (written by a team of attorneys from the Indianapolis law firm Bose McKinney & Evans LLP), for the guidance you’re looking for. Here are just a few ideas, as outlined in Chapter 6: "How Can I Keep My Benefit Costs Under Control?"

Consider implementing a wellness program. When employees are healthier, health care costs are lowered. Wellness programs typically are most successful when coupled with financial incentives.

Reduce annual and lifetime plan limits. Federal law does not prevent a health plan from imposing annual and lifetime benefit maximums. Employers seeking to minimize their financial exposure to unanticipated health care claims should reduce benefit maximums prior to the receipt of significant health claims from a single individual.

Offer different benefits for participants and dependents. Both the ADA and HIPAA explicitly permit health plans to provide different levels of benefits for participants and dependents. For example, it would not violate federal law for a health plan to have a $100,000 benefit cap for employees but only a $50,000 benefit cap for employee dependents.