The co-founder of a nationally known dance troupe based in the Twin Cities has resigned in the wake of a lawsuit alleging that he sexually harassed a former employee. He served as both a dancer and choreographer for the group.
The man offered his resignation so his company could move forward from the allegations. His wife, and the co-founder of the group, will continue on as the artistic director of the group. The man has admitted that he had an affair with the former employee but denies the sexual harassment claims.
However, the man’s attorney also acknowledged that there had been at least one prior complaint about the man’s inappropriate sexual behavior. His company instituted a sexual harassment policy after this complaint, and the man also agreed to participate in counseling. Additionally, he was no longer allowed to travel alone with female dancers.
The woman who filed the suit against the man described their relationship as exploitive. In addition to her claim against her former boss, she is also suing the dance company itself for negligently supervising its now former leader.
While not always illegal, romantic relationships in the office, especially between supervisors and subordinates, are highly risky endeavors. Given the unequal relationship that often exists between the two partners, it is very easy for a workplace relationship to cross legal lines.
When this happens, it is ultimately the employer who is responsible, as Minnesota businesses have an obligation to ensure a workplace free of discrimination and harassment.
A person who feels he or she was harassed in the course of an office romance, even if the relationship started innocently enough, may have legal options available to him or her.