Your office does not have a policy preventing employees from dating one another. You have been thinking about asking one of your coworkers if they would like to go out for coffee or a drink after work. The two of you have a good friendship, and you want to see if they are interested in taking things to the next level.
However, you are very conscious of sexual harassment issues in the workplace. You don’t want to make someone else feel uncomfortable. Would asking them out potentially qualify as sexual harassment?
Taking no for an answer
As a general rule, no, asking someone out is not sexual harassment. As long as you do so respectfully, you shouldn’t run into any issues.
The problem comes when people won’t take no for an answer. If you ask your coworker out and they decline your advances, it’s very important to be respectful of their position. Don’t pester them. Don’t ask them out repeatedly. Don’t spread rumors about them around the office or make underhanded comments about their dating life.
Additionally, there can be issues if there is a power imbalance. If you and your coworker are at the same level within the company, it’s probably not an issue. But if you have a higher-ranking position, you certainly do not want to pressure someone to go out on a date because they feel like they cannot say no. Pressuring another person could constitute sexual harassment.
Unfortunately, harassment allegations sometimes happen even on the job, and these situations can be very complicated. Those involved must be sure that they are well aware of all of their legal rights.