Many couples first meet in the workplace, because that is where many individuals spend a large portion of their waking hours. Yet relationships are not always permanent, and when a relationship comes to an end, sexual harassment and retaliation may begin. At the Akin Law Group we understand the difficult position you’re in when your relationship ends but you still have to see your ex at the office. If your former partner is harassing you or retaliating against you for ending the relationship, we can help you put an end to it once and for all.
What may be deemed frustrating or “annoying” outside of the office may constitute sexual harassment in the office. Some common examples of workplace harassment by a former partner include:
If your former partner continues to pursue you or harasses you in the workplace, there are several things that you must do.
It is not always easy to prove that your former partner’s conduct is unwelcome when it was previously consensual. One thing that can greatly strengthen a case of this nature is if the person you dated is your boss or supervisor, and if he/she took a tangible employment action against you. If your former partner fired, demoted, or suspended you after the end of your relationship, you may have a higher chance of succeeding in court. To ensure you take the right steps, consult with one of the attorneys at the Akin Law Group for Free and make sure you are protected.
If you are currently in a relationship with an individual in your workplace, it is important that you not engage in public displays of affection or sexual banter at the workplace. Despite the consensual nature of such interactions, such displays may make co-workers uncomfortable and create a hostile work environment for them. This can not only result in liability for you, but also for your employer, as they permitted the relationship to continue in a manner that created a hostile atmosphere.
An additional problem that may arise is that public displays of affection may encourage other individuals to engage in behavior that can be deemed sexual harassment in the workplace towards you or others. An individual who sees others engaged in displays of affection at work may begin to feel that it is acceptable to:
These actions may cause hostilities for you and result in a sexual harassment lawsuit or liability for the company.
Supervisor-subordinate romances can be problematic because of the power differential between the two parties involved. Because the supervisor often has the power to suspend, terminate, or provide additional benefits to the subordinate, questions may arise over whether the relationship is consensual or not.
An additional problem that may arise in the course of a supervisor-subordinate relationship is favoritism, where the supervisor grants his or her romantic partner promotions, raises, or additional benefits. A survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 40 percent of respondents said that employees complained of favoritism in the workplace between individuals involved in a relationship. Perceptions of unfairness and favoritism can ultimately damage office morale and create an atmosphere of resentment and anger towards you within the workplace.
Generally, favoritism (towards someone you are dating) is not considered a violation of Title VII. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions to the rule; the EEOC has warned that in certain circumstances, employers may be held liable for favoritism. One such exception is if a quid pro quoscenario is implied by an employee’s compliance with a supervisor’s advances. If, for example, a woman consents to her supervisor’s advances and receives a promotion, other individuals who were qualified for the job may be able to claim that they were discriminated against. They could argue that the woman’s promotion showed that an implied condition of the promotion was the provision of sexual favors.
This argument was successfully used in Miller v. California Department of Corrections, where female corrections officers alleged that their male supervisor’s favoritism towards employees whom he had consensual relationships with created a hostile work environment. The court found that if sexual favoritism was “severe and pervasive” enough, it could create a hostile environment that could be actionable in court, even if the individuals suing were not involved in the relationship themselves.
If you are suffering from harassment or a hostile work environment due to a supervisor-subordinate relationship, do not hesitate to contact the lawyers at Akin Law Group today.
In order to prevent problems related to workplace relationships, employers should create an explicit and uniform company-wide policy on dating. There are several different policies for an employer to choose from:
If you have experienced harassment or a hostile work environment because of sexual relationships in the workplace, you may feel distressed or helpless, especially if your harasser is your supervisor or the boss. Don’t allow the situation to continue or worsen – For a Free and Confidential consultation, contact the sexual harassment lawyers at Akin Law Group at 212-825-1400 to learn more about your rights.