Valentine’s Day And Sexual Harassment In The Workplace
Valentine's Day is a holiday based on the celebration of love and romance. While you can enjoy all of the festivities of this day in your personal life, the workplace is not the appropriate setting for romantic expressions or touching.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” This term also covers harassing a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person's sex.
On any day of the year, actions like repeated or inappropriate invitations to go out on dates, sexually suggestive comments/jokes and unwanted touching categorize sexual harassment in the workplace. On Valentine’s Day, these acts and many of the typical holiday actions (such as Valentine's Day cards and gifts), could be construed as sexual harassment. Cute notes with arrows through hearts may be intended by the sender as innocent, but if the recipient feels harassed or uncomfortable, you have a problem.
Workplace sexual harassment is an issue that becomes more relevant around Valentine’s Day, but truthfully, it can happen at any time. That’s why it’s important to have an anti-harassment policy in your employee handbook. Remind all employees and management that a love-themed holiday is not an invitation to ignore personal and professional boundaries. Managers should be made aware that romantically themed gifts to subordinates (or vice versa) should be avoided. Managers should also be trained to spot the signs of an employee receiving unwanted attention from a co-worker.
All employees should feel respected and safe when they walk into work every morning.
For employers and employees alike, the excuse of “It’s Valentine’s Day!” is not an acceptable reason to engage in or condone harassment. If you’re an employee who’s been harassed or you’re an employer facing a sexual harassment complaint, contact us. We professionally and discreetly advise you on your options and vigorously pursue restitution.