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Top Sexual Harassment Lawyer Reply: Can I Be Fired For Dating A Co-Worker?

| Aug 13, 2014 | Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio Sexual Harassment Attorney Answer: Can I date a co-worker? Are workplace relationships illegal? What should I do if I am being sexually harassed at work? How do I find the best wrongful termination lawyer in Ohio?

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According to Psychology Today, nearly 47 percent of US employees have been involved in a workplace romance. Due to the high rates of workplace dating, many employers choose to look the other way and allow love to take its course. Ohio law does not prohibit consensual workplace relationship, but employers can legally enforce reasonable limits on workplace relationships. Employers often take one of three approaches, ignore the dating relationships and hope there are no claims of sexual harassment, institute a no tolerance policy for dating, or require employees to formally submit a formal written statement revealing the existence of the relationship. Rather than roll the dice and hope that the love between two co-workers never dies, employers often act out of fear that sexual harassment claims will follow a breakup of a workplace relationship.

It is difficult to end a romantic relationship outside the workplace, but determining whether the romantic conduct after the relationship ends is unwelcome and constitutes sexual harassment is an even harder task for the employer and jilted employee. To establish a claim of hostile work environment sexual harassment, the plaintiff must show that the harassment was unwelcome, based on sex, and was sufficiently pervasive to affect the terms, conditions or privileges of employment, and that the harassment was either done by a supervisor or agents of the employer. See Hampel v. Food Ingredients Specialties, Inc., 89 Ohio St. 3d 169 (2000).  The romantic conduct constitutes sexual harassment so long as it is unwelcome by its recipient.

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The difficulty in establishing when the romance ends and the sexual harassment begins came to fruition in Cooke v. SGS Tool Company, when an employee engaged in a consensual relationship with a co-worker was later fired for performance issues. Robin Cooke had a consensual relationship with a supervisor, Charlene Harrison. After her exit interview, Cooke sent a letter notifying SGS that she had been involved in a consensual intimate relationship with Harrison during the course of her employment; and that that as a result of this relationship, her fellow employees harassed and ridiculed her. Cooke claims that she wanted to leave the relationship but feared retaliation by Harrison. Here are the problems with this claim for Cooke: First, there are no allegations that Harrison engaged in quid pro quo (this for that) sexual harassment. By all accounts the relationship was consensual. Second, there is no evidence that Cooke attempted to leave the relationship, let alone suffer a consequence for doing so. Her subjective fears of possible retaliation obviously do not rise to the level of actual retaliation. Third, and most significantly, Cooke waited until after being fired to raise these issues. While an employer is liable without notice for the sexual harassment by an employee’s manager, Ohio law requires that an employer get notice and the chance to remedy alleged sexual harassment by non-management level employees.

I will also note that this case is from 2000, and at that time, alleged sexual harassment between two women in a consensual relationship was not being well received by some courts. I would like to think that today, some of the issues raised would have created a question of fact and got this case to a jury. But, our courts are still not perfect.

In summation, workplace relationships are an “at your own risk” situation. Workplace romances should be carefully entered into keeping in mind that if the relationship ends, you will have to continue a relationship with your ex as a co-worker. If it raises issues of nonconsensual activity, it is important to timely report and document it, and you can do so with the help of a sexual harassment lawyer.

Sexual harassment is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar Ohio laws. Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination. If you feel that you are being sexually harassed or are working in a sexually charged or hostile working environment, you should not wait to call the right attorney at (216) 291-4744 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At The Spitz Law Firm, you will meet with a sexual harassment lawyer/hostile work environment attorney to find out what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them. Sexual harrassment is a form of gender discrimination, and employers should be held accountable if they discriminate against female workers in any fashion – but particularly for sexual harrassment. It does not matter if you have been wrongfully fired or are still employed, there is no reason to wait to find out what your legal rights are and how to protect yourself from sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this page and at this gender discrimination, wrongful termination, and sex harassment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking “what should I do …”, “I’m being sexually harassed …” “my supervisor grabbed my…”, “my boss is touching…,” “I’ve been wrongfully terminated,” or “how do I …”, your best course is to contact an Ohio sexual harassment attorney/hostile work environment lawyer to obtain advice with respect to sexual harassment/hostile work environment questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at the top of this page or through this employment law website are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.