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Shot Through the Heart- Valentine’s Day and the Risk of Sexual Harassment

Published:  January 31, 2014

When you were in elementary school you may have exchanged Valentines with each of your classmates. Then it was perfectly acceptable to give everyone a little box of candy and a card that said “Be Mine!” But the workplace is a completely different playground and it is best to beware before “you give love a bad name.”

Valentine’s Day is the perfect storm for misunderstandings, which may lead to an increased risk of sexual harassment claims. What some employees find to be fun and flirty comments, cards, e-mails, text messages, or jokes, other employees may consider offensive and inappropriate. As co-workers increasingly communicate via social media sites, there are even more opportunities for problems. As Valentine’s Day is associated with love and romance, an innocent gift or card can easily be misinterpreted. Even the most innocent of Valentine’s cards may suggest romantic feelings. In the workplace, a card that says “Be Mine!” may be interpreted as a romantic gesture or sexual advance despite the intention. This issue is compounded by the fact that employees may choose more “adult” themes for their Valentine’s Day cards.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, employers would be wise to shield themselves against Cupid’s arrow to avoid sexual harassment claims.The best way to avoid claims of sexual harassment is taking preventative steps. An employer’s best preventive measures against sexual harassment claims include a comprehensive sexual harassment policy, which has a procedure for reporting harassment, sexual harassment training for all employees, and regular supervisor trainings to recognize and react to possible cases of sexual harassment.

If you have any questions regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, please contact any of the attorneys at Royal LLP at (413) 586-2288.