Is Asking A Coworker On A Date Harassment?

Is Asking A Coworker On A Date Harassment?

The Facts

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Some people believe that asking a coworker on a date is always sexual harassment. However, this is not necessarily the case. If the person who is being asked feels comfortable saying no and there is no pressure or coercion involved, then it is not considered sexual harassment. Of course, if the person who is being asked does not want to go on a date and feels pressured or coerced into doing so, then it could be considered sexual harassment. Ultimately, it comes down to the individual circumstances and how the person who is being asked feels about the situation.

The Consequences of Dating in the Workplace

While a workplace romance is always possible, it is not always a good choice because there are numerous disadvantages for all parties involved. When a boss or superior is dating a subordinate, the disadvantages multiply.

  • Loss of Productivity - If coworkers spend too much time adoring one another, it may affect how much time they spend on their jobs.
  • Retaliation - If the friendship breaks down, one or both employees may act vindictively, negatively impacting both individuals' job performance.
  • Loss of Talent - In order to avoid charges of impropriety, one of the employees may choose to leave the organization. If they are a valuable employee, this could be a significant loss.
  • Favoritism Charges - If a boss is dating a subordinate, they may be accused of favoring that employee, even if the person is deserving of merit.

Is Asking a Coworker on a Date Harassment?

It's normal if one employee develops a crush on another. They see each other almost every day, so they have plenty of opportunities to get to know one another. That could lead to feelings developing, and a coworker acting on those feelings by asking another for a date. 

So, is this a case of sexual harassment

It depends on how the coworker who has been approached replies. If they agree, it is evident that it is not harassment because harassment is unwelcome behavior. According to research conducted by the renowned job site CareerBuilder, nearly 40% of users had dated a coworker, and 31% had married someone they worked with.

If a coworker rejects the interested party, it is not necessarily harassment, at least if the date was requested respectfully. If the person keeps asking for a date after their coworker has said no, the conduct might become harassing. 

A persistent, unwanted activity might be viewed as harassment, and the person who initiates the action could face legal consequences. If the two coworkers can sort things out and the interested coworker backs off, it doesn't have to be that way. If they don't, their coworker has the right to go through the entire sexual harassment procedure at the workplace.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dating a Coworker

1. Can a company ban its employees from dating? 

Regarding the possibility for workplace relationships to cause issues, it's reasonable that some firms would want to prohibit them. In some states, it is lawful to create rules prohibiting coworkers from dating. Even if you have the legal authority to do so, it may not be a smart idea because it can negatively affect employee morale and be difficult to implement. 

However, there are steps that a corporation can take to reduce the possibility of a workplace romance causing problems:

  • The company has the authority to prohibit supervisors from having romantic relationships with their subordinates. Many legal and ethical concerns can be avoided, as well as charges of partiality.
  • Employees in the same department can't date one other if they work for the same company. This decreases the risk of them becoming less productive as a result of spending too much time together. It also reduces the chances of an embarrassing situation arising if the pair splits up.
  • Employees can be required to declare any relationships so that the organization can resolve any possible issues. 
  • The employer might, for example, provide counseling on the effects of workplace romances or have the couple sign an agreement agreeing to act professionally.

2. How to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace?

There are a few things that can be done in order to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace:

  1. Be Clear About Your Intentions- If you are interested in someone, make sure that they are aware of your intentions before making any moves. This will help to ensure that they are comfortable with the situation and that there is no misunderstanding.
  1. Respect Boundaries- Even if you are interested in someone, it is important to respect their personal space and boundaries. You shouldn’t do anything that they are not comfortable with and do not make them feel uncomfortable in any way.
  1. Communicate- If there is ever any confusion or misunderstanding, the best thing to do is to communicate openly and directly with the person in question. This will help to avoid any potential conflict or misunderstanding.
  1. Seek Consent- Before engaging in any kind of physical contact, it is important to seek consent from the other person. This includes things like hugging, kissing, and even shaking hands. Make sure that the other person is comfortable with the level of physical contact that you are seeking.
  1. Respect "No"- If someone says "no" to any advances, it is important to respect their decision and back off immediately. Do not pressure them into doing anything that they do not want to do, and do not make them feel guilty for saying "no."

3. What action can we take if someone harasses us in the workplace?

If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, there are a few things that you can do:

  1. Speak Up- If you feel comfortable doing so, it is important to directly confront the person who is harassing you. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and that you expect it to stop immediately.
  1. Keep a Record- It can be helpful to record the incidents of harassment that you have experienced. This can include things like dates, times, locations, and any witnesses who may have been present.
  1. Talk to Someone Else- If you don't feel comfortable confronting the person who is harassing you, you can speak to someone else about what is happening. This could be a supervisor, HR representative, or even a lawyer.
  1. File a Complaint- If you want to take formal action, you can file a complaint with your company's HR department or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
  1. Seek Legal Action- In some cases, you may choose to file a lawsuit against the person who is harassing you. This is usually a last resort, but it is an option if all other avenues have been exhausted. 

Final Thoughts

Requesting a date with a coworker is not inherently harassment, at least not at first. If a coworker declines, the decision should be honored, and the interested party should withdraw. That rule applies both inside and outside the office. If the situation gets to the point of harassment, the right procedures to de-escalate the situation should be taken. 

The employee should adhere to the company's sexual harassment policy, but if that fails, legal action is always an option. So, if a stubborn coworker refuses to accept no for an answer, you should retain legal counsel just in case.

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