Is Asking a Co-Worker on a Date Sexual Harassment?

With the recent focus on the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, many employees may be questioning their own judgment when it comes to interactions with co-workers. It is not always easy to discern the difference between sincere communication with good intentions, and unlawful sexual harassment.

And no one wants to end up with a sexual harassment lawsuit or accused of sexual misconduct, so a brief refresher is in order.

It is probably not sexual harassment if you ask a colleague out on a date. In fact, a study from the popular job site CareerBuilder found that nearly 40 percent of participants have dated a co-worker, and 31 percent ended up marrying someone with whom they worked.

However, not all employees take no for an answer that easily. Persistent overtures that are obviously unwelcome or cross the line into more serious and threatening behaviors may be sexual discrimination. And that is illegal in the United States.

This discussion focuses on sexual harassment laws in Pennsylvania and practical guidelines to keep your office relationships appropriate and professional.

What Is Considered Sexual Harassment under the Law?

If you have a romantic interest in someone you work with, it is normal to be apprehensive about asking them on a date. With all the talk of workplace harassment in the news lately, you may be questioning what is, and what is not, acceptable behavior.

Gov. Gianforte Reaffirms Montana Law Banning Discrimination Based On Vaccination Status

Governor Greg Gianforte has provided guidance to Montana employers and employees impacted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule mandating vaccines for employers with 100 or more employees nationwide. 

“Montana law is unequivocal: employers are prohibited from discriminating based on vaccination status,” Gov. Gianforte wrote in guidance to Montanans. “While employers may encourage employees to vaccinate, they may not tie or modify any terms of employment based on vaccination status.”

On Nov. 5, 2021, OSHA published the “COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard” applicable to employers with 100 or more employees nationwide. The OSHA mandate violates Montana law prohibiting discrimination based on a person’s vaccination status. 

The OSHA mandate was immediately challenged, and its enforcement was stayed nationwide by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals until Dec.17, 2021, when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling allowing implementation of the OSHA mandate. The Sixth Circuit ruling has also been challenged and is presently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Signs That Age Equity Is Gaining Workplace Relevance (At Last)

While progress toward workplace age equity has been slow, this past year shows definite signs of improvement. As a result, there is an elevated awareness of workplace age bias and discrimination and the need for companies and organizations to address it.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made it very clear: job postings conveying preference — for example, “recent graduate,” young,” “energetic,” are examples of a recruiting practice that may involve systemic age discrimination.

The update provided transparency by explaining the use of administrative and litigation tools used to identify and pursue systemic discriminatory practices.  

Equal pay appeal by US women soccer players set for March 7

Oral arguments in the appeal by players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team who are seeking equal pay have been scheduled for March.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Sunday the hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. on March 7 in Pasadena, California. Under circuit court procedures, the identities of the three judges on the panel will be released publicly on Feb. 28.

“We hope 2022 will be the year of peace and health — and equal pay. We look forward to these oral arguments,” players spokeswoman Molly Levinson said in a statement.

Players led by Alex Morgan sued the U.S. Soccer Federation in March 2019, contending they have not been paid equitably under their collective bargaining agreement compared with what the men’s team receives under its agreement, which expired in December 2018. The women asked for more than $64 million in damages plus $3 million in interest under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

New York Enacts Job Posting Bill

Following the state of Colorado’s lead, on December 15, 2021, the New York City Council enacted Int. 1208-B (the “Bill”), which requires most employers advertising job openings for positions performed in New York City to include in the posting the minimum and maximum salaries offered for the position.

Failure to do so would be considered an unlawful discriminatory practice under the New York City Human Rights Law.

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