If I ask out my secretary is that sexual harassment?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Los Angeles, CA

Is the mere act of asking out an employee sexual harassment? Even if the employee says she wants to go out and won't consider it sexual harassment and acknowledges that its not sexual harassment in writing

Attorney answers (11)

  1. Michael Robert Kirschbaum

    Contributor Level 20

    15

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . No. Asking an employee out is not sexual harassment, unless she has made it clear she is not interested. Then is could become a problem. However, it is a recipe for disaster. It is a terrible idea to mix business with pleasure with your secretary. You are in a position of power over her job. If anything should go wrong, or even if nothing goes wrong, it can create a very uncomfortable working relationship and may prevent you from being an effective boss. These kinds of relationships often do turn into lawsuits if the employee is terminated or perceives they are being harassed or retaliated against later.

    Also, if you work for a company, check its policy on dating in the workplace. If their is a policy against it, you could both be fired for violating company policy.

    They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion... more
  2. Michael Charles Doland

    Contributor Level 20

    11

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Mr. Kirschbaum hits the nail squarely on the head - it may be legal under some circumstances but it is a bad idea under all circumstances. By analogy, lawyers are not barred simply from impropriety, they are barred from the appearance of impropriety.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may... more
  3. Marilynn Mika Spencer

    Contributor Level 20

    10

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . In addition to the other excellent responses and warnings you received, consider that despite what your secretary told you, she might feel coerced into telling you what she thinks you want to hear. You are in control of her very livelihood. You can cause her to lose her income, her home, her ability to support her family and her social standing. Do you really believe she feels absolutely free to tell you if she does not want a personal relationship with you? Especially if she knows you are interested? The relationship between a boss and a subordinate is inherently unequal and inherently coercive. You, your secretary and the employer would have to be extraordinary for this situation to turn out fine.

    *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your... more
  4. Harry Edward Hudson Jr

    Contributor Level 20

    9

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . This has disaster written all over it. The apparent requirement for a writing is troubling.

    The above is not intended as legal advice. The response does not constitute the creation of an attorney client... more
  5. Afshin Mozaffari

    Contributor Level 9

    8

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Not to belabor the point - but as my esteemed colleague, Mr. Kirschbaum, pointed out, while the mere act of asking your secretary out by itself may not constitute sexual harassment (e.g., as long as she has not previously made it clear she is not interested), such relationships have a great potential of becoming future sexual harassment lawsuits -- not to mention how it would effect the work environment and your effectiveness.

    What we commonly see in such situations is, for example, the supervisor is in a relationship with a subordinate that started consensually, but then the subordinate later feels that if she breaks off with the supervisor, his/her job could be in jeopardy. Or if the subordinate is terminated or otherwise disciplined at any time after the relationship is over, it can be perceived to have been because he/she broke off the relationship. So there are a number of scenarios which give rise to sexual-harassment claims that relate to these relationships.

    *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your... more
  6. David Andrew Mallen

    Contributor Level 14

    5

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I have heard of employers drafting "romantic contracts" for key employees in your situation, so that the employer is protected if the romantic relationship sours, but I have never actually seen one of these and cannot advise you on it.

    Just food for thought.

    David

    David A. Mallen offers answers on Avvo as a public service, for general information only. This offer of free,... more
  7. Alan James Brinkmeier

    Contributor Level 20

    6

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . It can be, yes.

  8. Kristine S Karila

    Contributor Level 16

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . To add to the other comments, if you choose to ask your secretary out and she agrees, have her first sign a contract in which she agrees that your relationship is consensual and that either of you can end the relationship at any time and the other will respect the decision of the other and not cause problems at work due to the relationship. If the relationship does not work out, you want to do all you can so that she doesn't later claim that you required her to date you or lose your job, etc. I have drafted these types of agreements before. Be smart about your decision!

  9. Kevin Rindler Madison

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Mot sexual harassment but not a good idea. Very dangerous in a legal sense.

    If this information has been helpful, please indicate below. I hope my information is helpful to you. If you think... more
  10. Robert M Fortgang

    Pro

    Contributor Level 13

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . So many really terrific responses from talented employment lawyers across this country ...but for brevity ...Harry Hudson has my vote. As for the "asker" ...have you considered finding your love interest outside of your place of employment? The mere fact that your question has elicited so many responses should be answer enough for you. But if you are determined to abandon common sense ...or if you are independently wealthy ...or ready to retire ...or judgement proof ...ignore these warnings and go for it. Good luck and best regards, Rob Fortgang - Employment Law Attorneys

    ROBERT FORTGANG ASSOCIATES, LLC - DISCLAIMER These materials have been prepared by Robert Fortgang Associates,... more
  11. George S. Frederick

    Contributor Level 4

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I would simply equate it to one having unprotected sex- it could be great, but might have significant repercussions. Neither are illegal, but both could end up bad.

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