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Do workplace relationships constitute sexual harassment?

There are countless stories of romances that start in workplaces here in California and around the country. Depending on the circumstances, many of those relationships have a positive outcome and many do not. These workplace relationships may seem very simple on the surface and even harmless, and while many of them are, there are those that actually involve sexual harassment. So how do employers and employees tell the difference? Experts are pointing to the recent departure of fast food chain McDonald's CEO as a cautionary tale.

McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook says that he had a romantic relationship with an employee that was completely consensual. It is not exactly clear whether that was true, though Easterbook has admitted that the relationship was a mistake. McDonald's has a policy that prohibits managers from entering into relationships with any employees under them, whether that employee reports to the manager or not. For its part, the fast food chain recently created a program for employees to teach them how to spot sexual harassment and what to do about it.

The policy McDonald's uses is one that many other companies have in place. The problem is that an employee may feel pressured to reciprocate romance with someone who could affect his or her job. Some employee advocates say that it is simply not possible for a relationship between a manager and an employee to be fully consensual. If any problems arise in the romance, a manager can make the employee's work life very difficult.

No employee should feel uncomfortable because of unwanted attention from a manager, or even another employee. Sexual harassment is wrong and deserves to be treated seriously. Any workers here in California who feel they have been harassed in any capacity while at work may want to enlist the assistance of an employment law attorney.

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