When you are in the work environment, you should feel comfortable around other employees and your managers. This means that in theory, all behavior should be kept strictly professional. However, this line can become blurred, since very often friendships arise in the workplace, as well as consensual relationships.

There is a fine line between what behavior is and is not appropriate in the workplace. The law in California states that behavior should be appropriate so as to avoid creating a hostile environment in the workplace. This means that employees should never make sexual jokes or make sexual advances in the workplace.

Does this mean it would be inappropriate to be complimented at work?

The appropriateness of an action depends on the way it is delivered. It is not necessarily considered sexual harassment for an employee to tell a coworker simply that they look good today. However, if this action is accompanied by a whistle or a leering gaze, it becomes inappropriate.

How should I react if I receive an unwanted sexual advance at work?

Many people are worried about hurting a coworker’s feelings when they respond negatively to an unwelcome sexual advance. But they shouldn’t, as they always have the right to say no without fearing any work-related retaliation. Stating that you do not date coworkers is a generally successful way to get the point across.

What should I do if I am being harassed?

If you continue to receive sexual advances after you decline, it is important that you take action. By doing so, you can protect yourself from sexual harassment and from retaliation.