Workplace Culture

I Hate Valentine’s Day, and Employers Should, Too

By Jon Hyman

Feb. 10, 2016

I hate Valentine’s Day. It’s not a visceral hate; it’s more of a disgustful annoyance. And, no, it’s not because I’m not romantic. Quite the opposite. I believe that we don’t need a special day to celebrate love, but that you do so by how you treat your other half all 365 days of the year. (I love you Colleen). Thankfully my wife’s not a fan of the day either, so I lose no points for omitting the clichéd dozen roses or candle-lit dinner.

Do you know who else should not be a fan of Valentine’s Day? Employers. Here are three reasons why.

Russo v. APL Marine Services: This case arose out of a failed romantic relationship between the plaintiff-employee and the captain of the boat on which she worked. Their relationship included a Valentine’s Day tryst, and after it ended, she alleged of harassing behavior such as butt slaps and requests for “make-up sex.”

Mitchell v. City of Pittsburgh: This case involved a male supervisor grabbing the buttocks of a female subordinate and placing his fingers “very close to [her] private area.” When she immediately and vocally objected, he responded: “That was for Valentine’s Day, they call me walking chocolate.” 

Hilton v. Shin: This case involved the alleged shunning of an employee (which included a negative performance review) by the president of her employer after she declined his repeated requests for sex, which included a request to meet with him in alleged attempt to “draw her into the office alone on Valentine’s Day.”

What’s are the lessons to take away from these tales of broken hearts, improper gropes, and untoward passes? 

  1. Nothing good can come from a manager or supervisor pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship with a subordinate. 
  2. Harassment prevention should be a 365-days-a-year mission. If you ignore your obligation to educate your employees about the dangers of harassment, Cupid’s arrow will carry the barb of a sex-harassment lawsuit.
Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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