Is asking a co-worker on a date a form of sexual harassment?

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2023 | Employment Law

While we all have a general idea of what conduct falls under sexual harassment, some behaviors are a bit of a gray area and would have to be further qualified by examining the available circumstances.

For instance, regardless of company policies against it, some employees pursue workplace romance, which typically starts with asking someone on a date. In a normal setting, people would not think of it as sexual harassment. However, since the act occurs in the workplace, others question its appropriateness.

When authority causes a feeling of pressure

Asking for a date is a normal occurrence, regardless of where it takes place. Hence, some people may find it comfortable to receive date invites, even in the workplace, and give their response. However, this may not be the case for others, especially when the suitor has authority over the employee.

Suppose a team leader asks one of their members for a date. In that case, that employee may feel pressured and fear that saying no would affect their position or workload. If a manager or supervisor threatens demotion, poor performance review or other similar consequences if the employee rejects the date invite, it counts as quid pro quo sexual harassment.

When they said no yet the suitor continued pursuance

Some people may initially feel comfortable receiving a date invite and accordingly giving a response. However, this initial feeling may take an opposite turn if the workplace suitor continuously asks for dates or persistently pursues despite the rejection. Consequently, this behavior can be classified as sexual harassment.

Making the workplace a safe space

Whether you are an employee feeling uncomfortable with a date invite or a witness to an inappropriate advance toward your co-worker, it is best to bring the situation to the company’s HR department. This way, the management can investigate and handle the situation accordingly. If you feel it is not enough protection, you can consult with an employment attorney for available options.