A prominent local employment law expert says when it comes to Valentine's Day, employers are better off ignoring it completely, because it is the holiday which causes more potential for workplace legal hassles than any other, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Tiffany Hildreth, who is with the Austin office of Strasburger & Price, says there is no upside whatsoever to Valentine's Day in the office.
She says even one employee leaving a non-sexual, non-suggestive Valentine's Day card on another employee's desk can spark expansive and morale-sapping legal fights.
"That person may immediately take offense and immediately report it and already you have a person who says 'I felt uncomfortable, I felt I was being harassed," she said.
Hildreth says she has seen cases where employees who received an innocent Valentine's Day card months earlier have decided to pull that out of their pocket when confronted with a bad performance review or the threat of dismissal.
"They bring up the fact that, you know, I've been feeling harassed," she said. "For example, on Valentine's Day, I received, without my consent, a card or something, so now they have reinvented that situation and turned it into something bad for the employer."
Hildreth says any sort of Valentine's Day office activities, even allowing employees on their own to pass out cards, candy or flowers, is something employers need to stop now.
"They create a lot of potential liability for the employer, in terms of potential discrimination and harassment claims, and potential claims of favoritism, potential wage disparity claims," she said.
Hildreth says employers are better off urging employees to mark the holiday at lunch, or at a non company sponsored event.