Workplace sexual harassment is a serious issue facing many California businesses today. It’s crucial for employers and employees alike to understand what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace and what doesn’t. One common question many workplace sexual harassment attorneys receive is if asking a coworker for a date is sexual harassment.
Asking a Coworker for a Date: Sexual Harassment or Not?
Under most circumstances, asking a coworker on a date is not considered sexual harassment. However, keep in mind that some employers have policies that discourage or even forbid dating between coworkers. Typically, asking a coworker on a date does not fit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) description of sexual harassment.
Suppose a coworker or supervisor respectfully asked you out on a date once, and you declined. Nothing else happened further. In that case, no sexual harassment has occurred. However, if the coworker or supervisor continues to ask you out on dates repeatedly, makes other unwanted advances, or infers that agreeing to or refusing a date might impact your job standing, that can constitute sexual harassment. If something like the latter scenario occurs, it’s essential to notify your human resources department and get in touch with a knowledgeable workplace sexual harassment lawyer who can help you determine your next best steps.
The Risks of Dating a Coworker
Even though asking a coworker for a date isn’t generally considered to be sexual harassment, there are risks associated with choosing to date someone with which you work. Doing so increases liabilities for both employers and employees, so much so that many California companies have policies that prohibit or limit workplace dating.
In fact, many reasons exist for wanting to prevent romantic relationships in the workplace. Common concerns include:
- Breaking employer’s policy – If you are an employee, you can risk losing your job or getting written up if you violate any workplace policies for dating a coworker.
- Favoritism claims – Both employers and their employees might be accused of favoritism if they promote, give raises, give bonuses, or give other work-related favors to their dating partner.
- Productivity problems – Even without a no-dating policy in place, it can be easy for your boss to blame any performance or productivity issues on your romantic interests.
- Sexual harassment – Dating coworkers or supervisors can increase the risk of both founded and unfounded workplace sexual harassment claims.
- Retaliation – If the dating workplace relationship doesn’t work out and ends badly, it can hinder cooperation, communication, and productivity at work and lead to individual retaliatory behavior. It can end in you wanting to quit your job.
Considering all of these factors, it might be in your best interests to avoid dating anyone you work with, whether they are simply a coworker, a subordinate, or a supervisor.
Questions About Workplace Sexual Harassment? Contact a Qualified Attorney Today
If you have questions about sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s best to get reliable answers from an experienced sexual harassment attorney. Contact one today to protect yourself and learn more about your rights.