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Office romances could lead to a hostile work environment

Romance in the workplace could lead to a happy relationship, but this is not always the case for workers in Minnesota and across the nation. This is especially true when a supervisor makes advances toward a subordinate. In some cases, this could be the fairytale or dream come true love story where the two have feelings for one another and are able to properly date without causing conflict in the work environment. For others, this could be a situation of sexual harassment. A supervisor could take advantage of their role in the workplace and the subordinate might submit to these advances. This could lead to additional and even serious situations.

When romance or attraction occurs in the workplace, others might notice special treatment by the employee being pursued by a supervisor. This could eventually lead to a hostile work environment due to unfair treatment and bias. In other situations, the woman receiving sexual advances could report the situation or co-workers could report the situation as well.

A recent sexual harassment case dealt with a subordinate and a supervisor having an affair. Co-workers reported this situation and also claimed that the woman was receiving special treatment because of the situation. After making the report, the two female workers that reported the situation believed that their supervisor found out about their allegations. They claimed to be treated unfairly and poorly, which eventually resulted in their firing.

Although their claims of a hostile work environment were never evidenced, this case demonstrates the complexities that office romances and affairs could pose. It also shows the importance of reporting instances of special treatment or sexual harassment. Documenting events could help prove these occurrences while also helping to prove a wrongful termination if one resulted from the claims.

Those who suspect they are dealing with an issue of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment should understand that they have options in the situation. They should seek to better understand the available causes of action so they can take appropriate action and protect their rights.

Source: Business Management, "Love blooms at work? Isolated romance doesn't always mean hostile work environment," Dec. 30, 2013

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