A coworker becomes interested in you, but you don’t share their feelings. You try to just ignore it at first, but then they directly ask you if you’d like to go on a date. You feel very uncomfortable with the exchange, and you turn them down.
This may have made you feel uncomfortable, but is it sexual harassment? Did your coworker cross the line by deciding to ask you out, rather than maintaining a professional relationship?
How many times did they ask?
Generally speaking, when someone asks another person out a single time, it doesn’t qualify as sexual harassment. It certainly could if there was another element involved. Say that they texted you an explicit photo when they asked you out. That could be harassment instantly. But if they simply came up to your desk and ask you out once, and then they took no for an answer when you turned them down, that’s generally not harassment.
What may happen, however, is that this person will refuse to take no for an answer. They will continue to ask you out, flirt with you, make physical advances and things of this nature. If they refuse to leave you alone, even though you have directly told them that you’re not interested in a romantic relationship, then it can very quickly turn into sexual harassment. They need to know when to accept your decision, and it’s potentially harassment if they don’t.
What steps should you take?
Employees shouldn’t have to deal with this type of harassment on the job, but it is unfortunately common. If you do find yourself in this position, you need to know about all the legal options you have.