Finding a romantic partner can be difficult in this day and age. Many working adults spend a significant amount of time with their coworkers. Understandably, sometimes an employee develops romantic feelings toward a coworker. If you wonder whether you should ask your coworker out on a date, you are not alone. Workplace dating can be a controversial subject. In some situations, asking your coworker out on a date may not have any negative consequences. However, beginning a romantic relationship with a colleague can sometimes lead to sexual harassment accusations.
Asking a Coworker Out on a Date Can Lead to Quid Pro Quo Harassment Allegations
Asking a coworker out on a date does not necessarily rise to the level of sexual harassment that is prohibited under federal and state law. However, it may result in complaints and charges. There are two types of unlawful sexual harassment — quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment charges occur when someone implies or suggests outright that they will provide a workplace benefit in exchange for submission to sexual requests.
A classic example of quid pro quo sexual harassment would be a manager telling an employee that he will give her a raise if she sleeps with him. Conversely, a manager may threaten to take adverse action against an employee for not submitting to their sexual request. For example, an employer may threaten to fire an employee for not going out on a romantic date with him.
Many people do not realize that a boss can be accused of engaging in quid pro quo sexual harassment even if the offer is not a direct bargain. Someone can be accused of quid pro quo sexual harassment even if the subordinate assumes that the manager is dating them in exchange for workplace benefits or avoiding negative workplace actions being taken against them. As a result, even if a manager did not intend to take adverse action against refusing to go out on a date or provide a benefit to the employee for going out on a date, it could still trigger a sexual harassment claim.
Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Claims
The other type of sexual harassment claim is a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment involves a situation in which sexual remarks and/or behaviors make a work environment so intolerable that the harassed person cannot perform their work duties. The hostile work environment must be pervasive or severe to meet the legal definition of sexual harassment. asking a coworker out on a date respectfully one time will not create a hostile work environment. However, repeatedly asking a coworker out on a date after they say no can trigger a sexual harassment claim.
Follow Your Workplace Policies and Procedures
Many workplaces have sexual harassment policies. If you are considering asking a coworker out on a date, You should learn more about your employer’s policy regarding dating coworkers and sexual harassment. In some companies, employees that begin dating each other are required to sign a document acknowledging their romantic relationship. Other companies decide to ban office romance altogether.
If you are in a company that bans office romances and you do decide to date your coworker, your employment could be terminated. It is important to remember that all of your company’s anti-harassment policies do not only apply to your physical workplace, they also apply to the virtual office. With more people than ever working from home, it is important to ensure that your actions offline through messaging, email, or Zoom calls do not include behavior that could be considered sexual harassment.
Following your company’s policies regarding dating a co-worker can help protect you from sexual harassment claims being filed against you. However, following your company’s policies will not guarantee that the person you asked on a date will not file a claim against you.
Contact an Experienced Sexual Harassment Attorney
Falling in love at work is not unusual or uncommon, but dating a co-worker can come with serious consequences. whether you have been subjected to sexual harassment by a co-worker continuously asking you out on dates and not accepting no as an answer, or you have been accused of sexual harassment yourself, you need an experienced attorney on your side. Contact the Alabama sexual harassment attorneys at Heninger Garrison Davis today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn more about your legal rights.