In most situations, being asked on a date by a coworker is not sexual harassment. Some employers have policies that discourage or ban dating between coworkers, but there is no Ohio law that forbids it.
“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment,” explains the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Asking a coworker on a date typically does not fit the EEOC’s description of sexual harassment. If a coworker or supervisor politely asked you out on a date on a single occasion, you declined and that was the end of it, it is not harassment. Of course, if the coworker or supervisor continues to request a date, makes other unwanted advances toward you, or hints that accepting or declining the date could affect your job standing then it may constitute sexual harassment.
What are the risks associated with dating in the workplace?
Nearly 40 percent of people have dated a coworker and 31 percent of people wound up marrying their office sweetheart, according to a 2013 survey from CareerBuilder.
That being said, there are risks for both employers and employees who choose to date someone at work. It greatly amplifies potential liabilities. “A lot of companies… adopt policies that ban or limit workplace dating — all in the name of lowering liability,” explains Inc.
There are numerous valid reasons why businesses would want to deter romantic relationships in the workplace. It could cause more turnovers, tarnish reputations, damage shareholders or clients’ confidence in the company, and even cause security issues if one party becomes violent. Below are a few other common concerns:
- Breaking company policy: If you are an employee, you risk losing your job or getting reprimanded if you break any workplace policies regarding dating between coworkers.
- Productivity issues: Even if there is no policy in place, it will be easy for your boss to contribute any performance issues or reduced productivity to your romantic life.
- Claims of favoritism: Employers and employees could face accusations of favoritism if they promote or grant favors for their dating partner.
- Retaliation: If the relationship goes south, it could hinder communication, cooperation, and productivity at work, and lead to retaliatory behavior.
- Sexual harassment: When coworkers date each other or when a superior dates a subordinate, it increases the risk of both legitimate and illegitimate sexual harassment claims.
Schedule a consultation with a sexual harassment employment lawyer.
If you think you may be the victim of sexual harassment at work, one of our lawyers would be happy to assess your case. When your boss or coworker continues to pester you for a date even after you make it crystal clear you are not interested or s/he otherwise crosses the line, you might be entitled to take legal action.
Call Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A. at 513-665-9500 to schedule a consult at your convenience.