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Consensual affairs at work may lead to sexual harassment charges

Sexual harassment can take on many forms and encompasses much more than obviously suggestive comments or gestures. Any inappropriate behavior that makes an individual feel uncomfortable may be seen as sexual harassment, despite how subtle it may be. California residents may be interested in a 2005 sexual harassment finding of the California Supreme Court.

When an employee has an affair with a senior staff member, they may feel comfortable and safe because of the romance being consensual. However, this affair may have a negative effect on other staff members. The state's Supreme Court found in 2005 that coworkers of such a couple may experience the relationship as sexual harassment. When coworkers perceive their treatment to be different and sexual favoritism to be afforded to another worker, they may have reason to feel sexually harassed.

California employers and employees who consider romantic or sexual relations with each other may want to consider the consequences. Apart from the likely lawsuits that may follow if the affair ends, they may be charged with sexual harassment. There remains, of course, the possibility that it may be a relationship that may lead to eventual long and happy marriage, but the potential dangers are many. A solitary incident may not be seen as sexual harassment, but ongoing sexual relationships may create an antagonistic atmosphere in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is particularly troublesome when perpetrated by managers, supervisors or other superiors. California workers may fear retaliation for reporting the misconduct, but fortunately, help is available to combat sexual harassment and protect the victim's rights. No employee should have to feel uncomfortable or humiliated at work due to persistent harassment.

Source: humanresources.about.com, "Court Rules on Sexual Harassment", Susan M. Heathfield, April 25, 2014

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