Your coworker asked you out. Is that harassment?

You and your coworker have always gotten along and developed a friendship. You never thought of it as any more than that. Until, one day, they came to work and asked you if you wanted to go out on a date.

What bothers you is that you’re worried that this might be an example of sexual harassment. You don’t want to have any relationship with your coworker that went beyond perhaps being friends in a professional setting. You weren’t looking for a romantic connection or a sexual encounter. Does the fact that they asked you out mean that they are harassing you on the job?

How did it happen?

The answer can be yes or no, depending on how the event took place. What did they say when they asked you out? If they made any explicit comments, it could be sexual harassment already. However, if they asked you in a polite and courteous manner, that may not be sexual harassment. This is especially true if they didn’t try to pressure you and they accepted your answer when you told them that you weren’t interested in a relationship. As long as they only asked you out the one time and they let it go after you turned them down, it’s probably not harassment unless there are other aggravating factors.

That being said, maybe they’ve continued to ask you out repeatedly, saying that they won’t take no for an answer. That could be harassment because it’s important for them to pay attention to your wishes. Asking you repeatedly certainly can turn their behavior into harassment over time.

Another thing to consider is if your company has a dating policy. It may be that the two of you are not allowed to have a relationship under the rules at the business. This doesn’t mean that it is illegal, of course, and many employees break these rules and date anyway. But it just means that you could lose your job if this relationship is discovered. It could also be an important piece of information if you’re trying to show that your coworker was breaking the rules and harassing you simultaneously.

It isn’t always easy to know when conduct is unlawful sexual harassment and when it is not. As a result, seeking legal guidance when you have questions can help to ensure that you’re empowered to understand your rights and to take action if and when they have been violated.

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