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Office romance or sexual harassment?

American pop culture has a love-hate relationship with the idea of office romance. On the one hand, the public idolizes characters like Jim and Pam from the U.S. version of “The Office,” who fell in love while mutually navigating office politics. On the other hand, this week’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” featured a major sexual harassment suit filed by one of the many jilted interns who had been romanced and later humiliated by their bosses.

At the end of the day, it is not always easy to understand which kinds of office romances are deeply endearing and which kinds may end in lawsuits. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 40 percent of human resources professionals willingly report that office romances occur in their places of business. When office romances are so ubiquitous, how can workers protect themselves from those that are volatile, those that rise to the level of sexual harassment and those that end in retaliation?

The obvious answer is that employees should avoid getting into relationships with each other, especially if one partner is either in a managerial or in a subordinate position to the other. However, life is not always so simple. And it is important for workers who have been discriminated against, harassed or otherwise harmed as a result of an office romance to understand that they are not alone. The law protects workers in situations like these.

Therefore, even if you have conflicting feelings about the decisions and the culture that led you to pursue an office romance, if you have been harassed or otherwise illegally harmed as a result of one, do not hesitate to contact an attorney in order to explore your legal options.

Source: Business News Daily, “Flirting with Trouble: Office Romances Can Prove Costly,” Chad Brooks, Feb. 13, 2014

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