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If I ask out my secretary is that sexual harassment?

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

Posted

It can be, yes.

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6 lawyers agree

Posted

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 based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.

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15 lawyers agree

8 comments

Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland

Posted

So far, 5 guys think it's a bad idea. I suspect the women attorenys of Avvo might concur.

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Posted

I do concur.

Asker

Posted

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Marilynn Mika Spencer

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Posted

What's with all the advertising on Avvo these days?

Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland

Posted

Then if that was not enough, ananymous wants me to follow a blind link.

Michael Robert Kirschbaum

Michael Robert Kirschbaum

Posted

I think this is a fake site. I wouldn't click on it.

Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland

Posted

Great advice. I never click on any link, with a few exceptions making the rule.

Scott J. Corwin

Scott J. Corwin

Posted

Bad Idea

Posted

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 analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

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2 comments

Asker

Posted

Wonderful. Share a website with you , ( http://www.wholesalemkt.net/ ) Believe you will love it. We accept any form of payment. ( http://www.wholesalemkt.net/ )

Scott J. Corwin

Scott J. Corwin

Posted

Agreed

Posted

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 relationship as this forum does not provide for a confidential communication.

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1 comment

Scott J. Corwin

Scott J. Corwin

Posted

Disaster with a capital D.

Posted

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 claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Afshin Mozaffari provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange.***

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1 comment

Scott J. Corwin

Scott J. Corwin

Posted

Looks like all lawyers are in agreement on this one. So it is clearly a bad idea

Posted

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 claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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1 comment

Scott J. Corwin

Scott J. Corwin

Posted

These employment litigators have it correct.

Posted

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, general answers is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need specific advice regarding the facts of your legal claim or the time limits for filing your claim, you should consult an attorney confidentially. Many experienced California labor and employment attorneys, including David A. Mallen, offer confidential, no-risk legal consultations at no charge. David A. Mallen is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, as well as the California Labor Commissioner and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Failure to take legal action within the time periods prescribed by law could result in the loss of important legal rights and remedies.

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1 comment

Scott J. Corwin

Scott J. Corwin

Posted

And David Mallen is one of the best employment lawyers around town. Listen to his advice.,

Posted

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

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Posted

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!

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8 comments

Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland

Posted

I understand your advice but am not sure that "consent' could not later be attacked as intrinsically coercive.

Robert Pecco Baker

Robert Pecco Baker

Posted

How weird is that? The asker should just seek female companionship elsewhere. If the secretary feels coerced into accepting the date because the boss has control over her livelihood, she may feel coerced into signing this contract. This is just too problematic. If the asker cannot find female companionship elsewhere, what does that fact tell us about this transaction?

Kristine S Karila

Kristine S Karila

Posted

IF they want to date - that is their decision. But it is wise to have a signed agreement - notarized and have a clause that states that neither is signing under any duress. Or have each seek legal counsel and include in the agreement that they have sought legal counsel, agree that their relationship is consensual and that they are not signing under duress. Many, if not most, employees will date one another if they desire to instead of just looking for companionship elsewhere.

Robert Pecco Baker

Robert Pecco Baker

Posted

But this is his secretary; they are not just co-employees. If there is duress it is doubtful that a document will cure it- Mr. Doland seems to agree. I suppose he could hire her a lawyer to consult with her and draft the agreement. But my feeling is that if they REALLY want to date and this is true love, then the only true defense is for one or both of them to find other employment. I really do not think that agreement is going to provide sufficient protection.-so to speak.

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Posted

I have represented several women over the years who entered into dating and even sexual relationships with their bosses due to coercion. I have also settled these cases for many hundreds of thousands of dollars. As I wrote in my separate post, this is not a relationship between equals. If the two insist on pursuing a relationship, one of them should leave the company or at least end the supervisor-subordinate relationship. And anyone who reads this and thinks the woman should be the one to leave has just demonstrated the inherent coerciveness of this situation.

Robert Pecco Baker

Robert Pecco Baker

Posted

OK, I have to be 100% honest. in 1985 I dated my secretary. The entire law firm was dating secretaries, paralegals, associates, court reporters, etc. Some of the attys were married at the time. There was not one consent contract signed. No one considered it harassment. That was a long time ago in a galaxy far away. See the little boy in front of me in this photo- I married the secretary and this is our son. Now, I would never have asked her out. That would have been my loss, but on the other hand, I have 2 daughters and I feel much better about their prospects in the work place.

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Marilynn Mika Spencer

Posted

The world has changed a great deal in the past two+ decades. And although you and other male attorneys may not have considered the situation harassing, I bet that some women did, even if they hadn't yet heard the word in that context.

Robert Pecco Baker

Robert Pecco Baker

Posted

You are no doubt correct. this was a case of the law catching up to reality. I meant that the men were unschooled in this and did not consider it harassment-now we know better. But the problem for many young men is that they are working 14 hours a day in their profession. Who are the women they meet?

Posted

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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3 lawyers agree

Posted

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

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