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Could an office romance start a sexual harassment investigation?

Office romances may be considered taboo by some, but they're actually very common. One study found that 40 percent of workers said they'd had some sort of a romantic relationship in the office, and it found that about 33 percent of these relationships ended in marriage. So, if you're thinking of dating a co-worker, are there any legal issues you need to watch out for?

According to one expert, you need to know that a relationship could, in some cases, spark a sexual harassment investigation. While this doesn't mean it will lead to a lawsuit, the investigation could still heavily impact your life at work.

The reason, that expert says, is that other employees are often told to report anything that makes for a hostile workplace environment or that looks like sexual harassment. They can still make these reports about you and your co-worker, even if you're in a legitimate relationship.

Remember that sexual harassment can impact these employees who are not in the relationship. For instance, they may complain that you're giving your co-worker preferential treatment since you're dating. They could also complain that public displays of affection go too far and make the workplace uncomfortable and hostile for others. Even the things you say to each other could spark an investigation.

Workplace relationships may be common, but there's a reason some companies frown on them. It's important for workers to know what sexual harassment entails, what rights they have, and how office relationships can lead to serious issues. This is even true for workers not in relationships themselves who could be negatively impacted by the actions of others.

Source: Business Insider, "My office romance turned into a marriage — here are 12 rules for dating a coworker," Jacquelyn Smith, accessed Feb. 10, 2017

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