Dating and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Workplace romances are common in Los Angeles. Coworkers spend a lot of time together, so it is no surprise that many people meet their future spouses at work. If you are romantically interested in someone at your job, however, there are certain complications that you may have to overcome. It is important to understand your legal rights as an employee in California before you enter into a relationship with someone at work.

Can Employers Stop Employees from Dating Each Other?

Yes, an employer can have rules in place that prohibit employees from interoffice relationships. It is legal for your employer to have restrictions against fraternization in the workplace. However, this is an employer-specific rule, not something that is mandated by state or federal law. In California, dating a coworker is not illegal.

California is an at-will employment state, meaning an employer does not need a reason to terminate your employment. Your employer can fire you for violating company rules by dating a coworker or for no reason at all. Your employer may also have the power to demote you or penalize you in other ways for breaching a nonfraternization clause. Carefully read over your employment documents and speak to human resources before dating a coworker.

How to Handle a Workplace Romance

It is extremely important to understand sexual harassment laws before entering into any type of romantic relationship at work. You do not want to be accused of sexual harassment or become a victim of this crime. Sexual harassment refers to any unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature at work. Sexual harassment can refer to a single severe incident or consistent conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Before getting into a relationship with a coworker, go to human resources. You may have to fill out a Consensual Relationship Agreement Form or Workplace Relationship Disclosure Form with your coworker to establish your romance. Going about your workplace romance in the correct way can help you avoid potential employment or legal ramifications.

Examples of Sexual Harassment After a Relationship

If you and your spouse break up but still have to work together, sexual harassment at work may be a risk you face. Your former partner may take to harassing or discriminating against you because of your romantic history. Examples include:

  • Unwanted touching or invasions of personal space
  • Gossiping or spreading false rumors
  • Disclosing private information to others at work
  • Taking adverse employment actions against you

Any unwelcome, inappropriate, hostile or retaliatory conduct at work from your ex-spouse could constitute sexual harassment in California.

What do I do if My Former Partner Harasses Me at Work?

If you suspect sexual harassment by an ex, take steps to protect yourself. First, have a conversation with your ex. It is possible that your former partner does not realize how his or her actions are affecting you. This may resolve the problem.

If not, document each incident. Keep a journal where you log each remark, comment, incident, or adverse employment action, along with the date, time, and parties involved. If anyone witnessed your former partner harassing you, write down their information and ask if they would be willing to provide a statement. Then, go to your human resources department to file an official complaint.

If HR does not do anything to remedy the situation, protect you or penalize your former partner, take your complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC has the power to enact changes at your workplace and force your employer or coworker to treat you fairly. Then, contact a sexual harassment attorney in Los Angeles for legal advice.

Get Legal Help for Harassment or Hostile Work Environment

If a relationship with someone at work resulted in sexual harassment or a hostile work environment caused by your ex, contact an experienced Los Angeles Sexual Harassment attorney. We can help you understand and defend your rights, as well as file a sexual harassment lawsuit in Los Angeles, if applicable.