Where does the law draw the line concerning workplace sexual harassment?
All types of sexual relationships and behavior in the workplace are not legally prohibited. And since we discuss what does constitute workplace sexual harassment, we also are providing you with situations that do not necessarily constitute inappropriate behavior.
Singular and Trivial Behavior
One sexual joke or off-hand remark on its own is not considered illegal conduct. The key difference is when a comment is followed with a sexual reference because of an employee's sex and it creates a hostile work environment.
Examples that are not workplace sexual harassment:
“That's a nice outfit.”
“You should dress more professionally.”
Examples of potential sexual harassment:
“That skirt really shows off your behind.”
“You should wear tighter clothes to impress your boss.”
Consensual behavior is mutually desired and agreed-upon with both parties willingly participating. Although they are not legally required, many employers have policies in place that prohibit dating between co-workers. When there is not a policy in place, it's possible that a co-worker could politely ask you out on a date. A single request would not be considered sexual harassment. Repeated requests by an individual after you have indicated you are not interested may constitute sexual harassment.
While it's not considered sexual harassment if the relationship is consensual, situations can occur once the relationship has ended. Once you have made it clear that you are no longer romantically interested, the same laws apply to protect you against both types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
If you need advice or have questions about a situation you are encountering at work, please call us toll-free at 888-500-8469 or locally at 818-990-8300.