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Chapter 10. Sexual Harassment > Judging If It Is Sexual Harassment

Judging If It Is Sexual Harassment

The current test for sexual harassment is whether a reasonable woman would consider an action to be sexual harassment. When judging your own behavior, it is generally effective to ask yourself if you would act this way in front of your spouse, your peers, or a television camera. Companies can not forbid all flirting at work. Seventy percent of permanent relationships begin at work. There is a gray zone in which reasonable people may disagree about whether requests for a date or flirtatious comments are somewhat harassing or are simply a demonstration of continued interest. The existence of this gray zone does not, however, mean that most problematic behavior could be debated. Unwanted touching, quid pro quos for sexual activity, refusing to take no for an answer, and sexually based jokes that offend someone clearly constitute sexual harassment.

Whether or not the behavior reaches the level of sexual harassment is not critical for our purposes. The issue is how to help everyone be comfortable and feel safe from harassment. Companies do not need to bar all flirting and requests for a date to avoid sexual harassment. Rather, people simply need to use discretion and err on the side of caution. In other words, you need to use emotional intelligence and caution when dealing with office dating.


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