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Don't lead someone on in the workplace; be direct when needed

Yes, there's a difference between quid pro quo sexual harassment and someone mooning over you in the workplace. The first is illegal and you have a lot of legal protection in dealing with it. The second is uncomfortable and, while it could eventually turn into a sexual harassment situation, does not necessarily involve the same legal protections while it's simply a possible romantic interest you don't return.

One expert on managing people in the workplace notes that simply being noncommittal all the time to avoid negative issues doesn't work. If someone indicates interest in you or asks you out, there are only so many excuses you can make. Certainly, you can start with this tactic and hope they get the hint, but not everyone does, and continuing to avoid direct communication can even hedge the situation into harassment territory.

Instead, be honest but kind. In the most tactful way possible, tell the person that you are not interested and that you are beginning to feel like he or she is creating a hostile environment for you at work. After you've taken the steps to clearly communicate your lack of interest, if the person doesn't stop his or her attentions, then speak with your supervisor or someone in human resources. A continued interest sexually or romantically after you have clearly declined could be harassment.

If you are dealing with something more than a sweet but misplaced interest, then consider speaking with a third party to find out about your options in California. If you are being propositioned for sex in exchange for some reward at work or feel you are being forced into romantic or sexual situations, then you might have the base for a sexual harassment case.

Source: Ask a Manager, "How to reject a coworker who’s romantically interested in you," accessed Sep. 23, 2016

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