Clumsy office romantics warned off Valentine's Day e-cards

Other News Materials 15 February 2008 00:59 (UTC +04:00)
Clumsy office romantics warned off Valentine's Day e-cards

( AFP )- Sending Valentine's Day "e-cards" to work colleagues could result in dismissal if they get taken the wrong way, a legal expert warned Thursday.

The simplicity of sending e-cards via the Internet as opposed to the traditional Valentine's paper cards has seemingly opened up another channel for attention that could be misconstrued.

An application on the Facebook social networking site allows users to send e-cards with greetings such as "I liked you from the moment I heard you were desperate" and "I think in time your creepiness will become endearing".

Peter Mooney, head of consultancy at Employment Law Advisory Services, warned: "Sending this sort of thing to a colleague might seem like banter but is could easily be interpreted as an unwanted sexual advance.

"Even sending a traditional Valentine's Day card could result in a sexual harassment claim but the risks are increasing as more and more people send their greetings via the Internet. This obviously makes it much easier to do something on the spur of the moment without considering the consequences.

And he added: "The worst consequence for the sender could be dismissal after an investigation if the recipient was so outraged and felt that this was going beyond the bounds of a usual office relationship.

"And for the employer, if someone makes a claim and it mushrooms it could end up costing tens of thousands of pounds (dollars, euros). In an extreme case there is no ceiling on these claims so the sky's the limit."

Mooney urged employers to lay down ground rules and be aware of their responsibilities.

"People might think 'Oh yeah, let's have a giggle', and that's right within bounds but if someone takes it the wrong way it can mushroom," he warned.

"These are all things that could be okay but could be taken the wrong way and could get out of hand."