Feedback Requested: Fraternization in the Workplace Policy and Employment of Relatives/Family Members Policy

Published 6/08/2021 1:14 PM CT


Illinois Heartland Library System is in the process of finalizing components for the updated IHLS Personnel Code, and several new policies have been proposed, including:

  • Fraternization in the Workplace Policy
  • Employment of Relatives/Family Members Policy

These policies have been vetted by legal counsel and were reviewed in a first reading at the Illinois Heartland Library System Board of Directors meeting on April 27, 2021. They are now being sent for member comment. Members of Illinois Heartland Library System are encouraged to review the proposed policies and share their comments. To make a comment, please use the form below.


Fraternization in the Workplace

Illinois Heartland Library System has created this policy to nurture a working environment in which employees maintain clear boundaries between employee personal and business relationships so as to be most effective for conducting business. Illinois Heartland Library System does not prohibit friendships or romantic relationships between employees but seeks to set forth clear guidelines as to how relationships should be conducted in the workplace.

  • Discouraging Workplace Personal Relationships – Illinois Heartland Library System discourages, but does not forbid, fraternization between managers or supervisors and subordinate employees. Romantic or intimate relationships between managers or supervisors and subordinate employees create an unreasonable possibility of favoritism, conflicts of interest, and claims of sexual harassment. Such relationships may also create serious problems in terms of objective management, accurate evaluations, and discipline.
  • Reporting Workplace Relationships – For these reasons, any employee who is involved in a romantic or intimate relationship, not necessarily limited to sexual relationships, with any other employee must report the relationship to Human Resources. Such information will be treated by IHLS as confidentially as possible, consistent with the IHLS’s legitimate business needs. Failure to report such relationships may result in disciplinary action, up to, and including, discharge.
  • Company’s Rights – Where such an intimate relationship exists, IHLS reserves the right to make such employment decisions as are necessary to ensure that the risks enumerated above regarding the relationship will not occur. Such steps include but are not limited to: transfer of one or both parties to the relationship; required resignation of one of the parties in the relationship (in such cases, the decision as to which employee will resign will be left to the two employees); or adjusting lines of reporting or communication.
  • Agreement – In cases where a consensual personal relationship exists, the parties will be required to sign an agreement acknowledging that the relationship exists and that it is consensual and the agreement will further instruct each party to immediately notify Human Resources should the relationship at any time become non-consensual so that IHLS can ensure that no violation of  IHLS’s No Harassment policy has occurred and, if it has, IHLS can take prompt, appropriate remedial action to ensure the harassment stops. Moreover, in order to maintain the avoidance of favoritism in the workplace and to ensure that all employees of IHLS are comfortable in the work environment, employees who are involved in a personal romantic relationship are absolutely prohibited from engaging in displays of affection (such as kissing, hand-holding, or other similar personal contact) while in IHLS and anywhere on IHLS premises during working time.
  • Refusal of Employment Modifications – As detailed above, it may be necessary to modify reporting structures, transfer positions, or make other necessary adjustments to employment. Refusal of reasonable modification to an employee’s position will be deemed a voluntary resignation.
  • Conduct During Non-Work Time – During non-working time, including lunch, breaks, and before or after work periods, employees may engage in appropriate personal conversations in non-work areas as long as such conversations and behavior do not violate IHLS’s policy against workplace harassment and as long as the employees avoid displays of affection such as kissing, hugging, etc., at all times while on IHLS premises.
  • Off-Duty Conduct – Employee conduct outside of working hours and outside IHLS premises is generally regarded as private, as long as such conduct does not create problems within the workplace. An exception to this rule is romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinates or between employees, which must be reported as set forth above. In addition, IHLS strongly discourages off-duty fraternization to include attendance at happy hours or similar events involving supervisors/managers and non-supervisory employees.
  • Physical Contact – Employees are prohibited from engaging in physical contact that would be considered inappropriate by a reasonable person on IHLS property, in the presence of customers, or during any IHLS-related business.
  • Harassment – Employees should be mindful the organization maintains a strict anti- harassment policy.
  • Employee Appeals – Any employee who believes that he or she has been adversely affected as a result of this policy, or who believes that this policy is not being adhered to, should speak with Human Resources.


Employment of Relatives/Family Members

IHLS is committed to a policy of employment and advancement based on qualifications and merit and does not discriminate in favor of or in opposition to the employment of family members. However, at the same time, IHLS recognizes the potential for favoritism or the appearance of favoritism when one employee is related to another, especially when there is a direct reporting relationship between the two employees. IHLS strongly believes in a work environment where employees maintain clear boundaries between business relationships and familial relationships.

Due to potential for perceived or actual conflicts, such as favoritism or personal conflicts from outside the work environment, which can be carried into the daily working relationship, IHLS will hire a family member (as defined below) of persons currently employed only if: a) the candidate for employment will not be working directly for or supervising a relative, and b) the candidate for employment will not occupy a position in the same line of authority in which employees can initiate or participate in decisions involving a direct benefit to the relative. Such decisions include hiring, retention, transfer, promotion, wages, leave requests, benefits, or any other aspect of employment.

This policy applies to all current employees and candidates for employment.

"Family member" is defined as one of the following: spouse or significant other, parent/stepparent, child/stepchild, grandparent, grandchild, brother/brother-in-law, sister/sister-in-law, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, first cousin, in-laws (father, mother, son, daughter).

To ensure compliance with this policy, our employment application requests all applicants to inform IHLS if they know or are related to any current employee. This is addressed so that we may be aware of relationships that would impact the work environment for all staff and the substance of this policy.

The hiring supervisor is responsible for ensuring policy compliance. Department directors are responsible for monitoring changes in employee reporting relations after initial hire to ensure compliance with this policy. Employees are responsible for immediately reporting any changes to their supervisor and to Human Resources.

If any employee, after employment or change in employment, enters into one of the above relationships, the employees involved must notify Human Resources immediately of the relationship status so that Human Resources can take appropriate action to protect all employees and IHLS. Depending upon all the relevant circumstances, IHLS will take appropriate action to ensure this policy is not violated. Such action may include, but is not limited to, reassignment of one or both of the involved employees or other action so that there is a change in the reporting relationship. The involved employees will have input into the change in position and while the involved employees’ desires will be taken into consideration, the final decision as to how a change in position(s) will occur, so as to avoid a situation where this policy is violated will lie in the sole discretion of the Executive Director.

It is possible, in exceptional circumstances, that IHLS may permit two family members (as that term is defined herein) to remain in a reporting relationship. However, any exception to this policy must have the written consent of the Executive Director.

Public comment will close after Friday, July 2, 2021. IHLS Personnel Committee will review the comments at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, July 6, 2021.




"In addition, IHLS strongly discourages off-duty fraternization to include attendance at happy hours or similar events involving supervisors/managers and non-supervisory employees." How would staff ensure compliance at conference social hours or group dinners when traveling? Would you consider all time spent at conferences or traveling as on duty?

Just one employee here, but I can see this being a problem elsewhere

There should not be any prohibitions on fraternization after work hours and off the premises.
Shouldn't have to sign an agreement stating in a relationship and consensual.

Very well expressed and both are necessary to have established prior to a problem.

I have two sets of related family members on my staff. One is mother/son and the other is sister-in-laws. The only time this has caused a problem is vacations. Several times I have had family vacations take two staff members at a time. This depletes my workforce by 1/3. All my staff are part-time and none of them have paid vacations. This may not be an issue for IHLS, but I thought I'd bring it up because it has been an issue for me.

We have several board members who are first cousins of our librarian. Is this included in these rules?