If a co-worker asks you for a date, is that sexual harassment?

If you’ve been asked out on a date at work and refused, you may still be unsettled. Maybe you believe that interoffice relationships are unprofessional or that clients shouldn’t approach you in that way.

However you feel about it, if you’re considering reporting it as sexual harassment, you should first considers whether this situation really qualifies. Simply asking someone out isn’t necessarily enough to constitute harassment, even if it may make you uncomfortable. However, if they persist in asking you out or continue unwanted behaviors, then you may have a case.

How is sexual harassment defined?

Sexual harassment is fairly specific. It usually requires repeated offensive comments or lewd statements. It may mean repeated sexual advances. Unwanted touching and exposure to sexual images or materials are also enough to start building your case, even if they happen only once.

Remember that sexual harassment doesn’t have to take place at work. It can also take place outside your normal hours at work-related activities or during company-sponsored events.

Even if a co-worker’s request for a date doesn’t rise to the level of sexual harassment, it may violate company policy. You employer may have specific rules regarding dating in the workplace. It’s worth reading through your employee handbook. Additionally, if this behavior is unwanted and doesn’t stop, then you may be able to make a report to your human resources department. If nothing changes after bringing up the problem, then you may have a case.

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