Human Resources

More Training Scenarios: Is it Harassment?

Yesterday kicked off our three day “is this harassment” training series. Today, more examples of potential harassment.

William P Courts Janet R

Janet R enjoyed her position as administrative director at Eastern Healthcare. She worked with great people, with the possible exception of her boss, William P, whose interest in her clearly extended beyond the workplace. For months, in fact, he had been casually asking her out. Occasionally, she’d have a drink with him after work, maybe dance a few dances, but she never let things go any further than that.

Then Janet became eligible for a promotion, and things moved to a new level. “That promotion that you’ve been hoping for? Well, I imagine that if we spent a weekend in the country talking about it, I’d be a lot more likely to recommend you for it,” William said. Janet didn’t go to the country and she didn’t get the job.

Is this harassment?

This appears to be the most blatant form of harassment, called quid pro quo (this for that). That’s when an employment action is conditioned on a subordinate’s acquiescing to a supervisor’s sexual desires.

Janet R Says Yes

Take the same situation as the last scenario. William P, the boss, keeps asking Janet R, his subordinate, to go out with him. But let’s say that Janet has been secretly hoping for an invitation to go on a weekend. The two of them go to the country for the weekend and enjoy it whole-heartedly. The next week, Janet gets the promotion. She and William continue to find mutual enjoyment on their weekends in the country.

Any problems?

Not for Janet and William. Not yet. But what about the other employees who didn’t get the promotion? If they perceive that Janet is getting promoted over them because she’s having sex with the boss, they may take action.

Things Cool Off

Now let’s say that Janet and William’s relationship cools off at some point in the future, as many relationships do. They stop seeing each other. They maintain a pleasant relationship at work and things seem back to normal for everyone involved. A few months later, however, Janet suffers some type of job detriment, for example, she gets demoted or fails to get a bonus.

Any problem now?

Janet may claim that William coerced her into a relationship and is now retaliating against her for breaking it off. Because of the boss/subordinate relationship, it will be hard to prove she wasn’t coerced and retaliated against. William will need some good documentation to back up his action against her.

Tomorrow we’ll look at two more cases in our “is this harassment” series.