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Is an office romance illegal?

On Behalf of | May 24, 2020 | Employment Law

Office romance, the subject of many movies and TV shows, is common in the United States. But is it legal? Or could you run into sexual harassment claims if you express interest in a coworker and ask them out? 

First and foremost, companies can create policies about dating. They may prohibit it. Employees have to obey that policy if it is in place. It is not illegal to ask someone out, but it may be against the policy and could lead to termination. 

Generally, expressing interest initially is fine. You cannot do it in a way that intimidates the other person — which is why supervisors are discouraged from dating their employees — or in a vulgar and offensive way. For instance, you can make sexually suggestive remarks about a person’s appearance and then ask them out, claiming when they are offended that you just wanted to go on a date. You have to be respectful. If you are, that’s fine. 

If the person says no, though, that’s when it’s time to step away and not ask again. Persistence does not pay off. In fact, that persistence can turn the whole situation into harassment because badgering your coworker can make them feel uncomfortable and can create a hostile work environment. This is true even if you are “kind” about the way that you ask. You still can’t relentlessly bombard them with requests for a date, or they could quickly begin feeling harassed and attacked. 

These situations can get tricky. Do you feel like you have been harassed by a coworker in some fashion? If so, you need to know about all of your legal rights