You’re not interested in starting a relationship with anyone from work, but a co-worker comes up to you at the end of a work week and asks you out anyway. You tell them that you would rather not go on a date with them, and you head home for the weekend.
Over the weekend, you start wondering if that is sexual harassment. You didn’t want the relationship, and now you feel awkward going back to the office on Monday. Is this a problem or not?
Did they only ask you once?
Generally speaking, someone asking you out on a date one time is not sexual harassment. It could still be a problem, especially if the company has a dating policy stating that employees are not allowed to do so, but it is generally not illegal outside of that.
When it becomes a problem is if the person continues to ask you out repeatedly. Maybe they won’t take no for an answer, and they start sending you messages or talking to you every chance they get. Maybe they start asking you out once a week, even when you turn them down.
Things like this can certainly turn the situation into one where you are being harassed. The co-worker needs to understand that you have already told them that you’re not interested in a relationship. They must respect those wishes. When they don’t, and when they keep pressuring you, then you may be able to claim that you’re being harassed.
It can also be problematic if the person who asked you out is in a position of power over you at the company. This is why a lot of companies have policies saying that supervisors are not allowed to date their subordinates. Asking you on a date when they are in charge of your employment status could put undue pressure on you so that you’re not sure if you can say no without the fear of retaliation.
What are your rights?
If you find yourself in a complicated situation at work, make sure you fully understand exactly what rights you have and all the legal steps you may need to take.