We Protect Workers

Is it ever acceptable to ask a coworker for a date?

On this year’s season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a minor plot is the budding relationship between Miss Vanjie and Brooke Lynn Hytes, two contestants on the show. While the interaction between the two queens makes for great television, it also brings up an important question: Is it ever acceptable to ask a coworker for a date?

Both federal and California law prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. While there exist a variety of ways to engage in sexual harassment, unwelcomed flirting with a coworker usually crosses the line. There is not, however, an overarching legal prohibition against dating coworkers. As such, before you ask a coworker for a date, you should be certain you are on a solid foundation. 

Understand company policy 

The #MeToo movement has changed the way many HR departments view sexual harassment. Even though the law may not expressly prevent you from asking a coworker for a date, your company may. That is, your organization may have either an explicit or implicit prohibition against romantic relationships between coworkers. Read through your employee handbook to see if requesting a date is not acceptable behavior. 

Know about sexual harassment 

Generally, sexual harassment does not involve a single incident. Instead, impermissible behavior must be pervasive or ongoing. While asking a colleague to go on a date once may be fine, persisting may land you in hot water. If the object of your affection declines once, you should not continue to pursue a date. 

Be careful with preferential treatment 

If you have an adorable coworker, you likely want to make a great impression. Still, treating your love interest differently than other colleagues may be problematic. Therefore, you must be certain to treat everyone around you the same way.

While Miss Vanjie and Brooke Lynn Hytes were probably not technically coworkers on the most recent season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” their on-air behavior may help you better understand romantic relationships in the workplace. If you are thinking about asking a coworker for a date, you must be careful not to engage in sexual harassment.