6 Things You Shouldn't Do at the Office on Valentine's Day – Or Any Other Day
Ah, Valentine's Day. The time for love, kisses, flowers, chocolate and romance — all things that might get you in trouble at the office. There's a fine line between lighthearted fun and sexual harassment. Where do you draw the line? Where does harmless flirtation stop and sexual harassment begin? Here are examples of behaviors you should avoid in the workplace — on Valentine's Day and every other day:
- Don't send funny, sexually suggestive messages to anyone in the office. While some may appreciate the joke, others may be offended. If conduct that causes offense is part of a repeated pattern, it could be sexual harassment.
- Don't give flowers with a note saying "Still hoping you'll go out with me" to a co-worker who has previously turned down your request for a date. Unless your employer has a no-dating policy, it's usually okay to ask a co-worker out one time — but it's not okay to ask him/her again if (s)he has indicated that (s)he's not interested.
- Don't pat a co-worker on the butt as part of a joke, even if you are sure that (s)he would find it funny. You're not a mind reader, and you don't really know how (s)he will react. As long as what you are doing is unwelcome, it could be sexual harassment.
- Here's an obvious one: Don't give your assistant a card that says "Let's get it on, Valentine" and add a note saying, "...if you want to keep your job." This is called quid pro quo harassment — asking a subordinate for sexual favors in exchange for keeping his/her job or getting a promotion or other benefits. You don't even want to joke about this because of the risk that you may be misunderstood.
- Don't tell your best co-worker friends your Valentine's Day plans in explicit detail when another co-worker, who is uncomfortable hearing such stories, is within hearing distance. Behavior doesn't have to be directed at a specific individual for it to be sexually harassing to that person.
- For the same reason, don't put the sexually suggestive card you received from your spouse or significant other on your desk where anyone who passes by can see it.
The EEOC says, "Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace," and encourages employers to provide training on the prevention of sexual harassment to "clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated."Categories: Discrimination & Harassment Compliance
Tags: sexual harassment