As an employment law firm that handles sexual harassment cases, we've heard countless stories about inappropriate comments and behavior, groping without consent, and even sexual assault. However, there's a workplace situation that is just as uncomfortable, but a little less clear: when your boss declares his or her love for you.
Recently, we read a story about a woman who had an amazing working relationship with her boss. They were good friends and had spent years working together on various projects. However, what she believed was a great working relationship was interpreted differently by her supervisor.
One day, he dropped it on her: he was "in love" with her.
He made no inappropriate gestures, no untoward comments, nothing. She wasn't being assaulted or touched in any way. Still, she was uncomfortable with his confession and eventually left that job.
Romantic Confessions + Power = Sexual Harassment
This story is more common than you might think. Researchers have found that, for whatever reason, supervisors are more likely to believe that their employees have sexual feelings for them. Even the best working relationship can be strained to the breaking point when bosses misread their employees' behavior.
However, is confessing your love an act of sexual harassment? On the surface, no—but remember, sexual harassment becomes illegal as soon as it hinders a person's ability to work in a non-hostile environment. If sidestepping your boss' "innocent" confession affects your job—or even leads them to retaliate against you—then it's absolutely sexual harassment.
Not All Sexual Harassment Is Aggressive
In conclusion, does sexual harassment have to be violent or intense to be harassment?
Not necessarily. Even a gentle confession of love can lead to a hostile work environment—especially if your boss retaliates. When a superior )(or a co-worker) declares their love for you, that's uncomfortable, but when they resent you or hinder your career for not returning their love, that's a form of employment discrimination.
If your boss made your job harder because you didn't return their feelings, you may have a sexual harassment case. Call (310) 986-2792 to learn if you have a case from our Harvard-educated Los Angeles employment lawyer. Get a free consultation today!