You Don’t Have to Say Yes to Cupid’s Arrow

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, so today, be prepared for heart shaped chocolates in the break room and flowers being delivered in the lobby. But just because today is Valentine’s Day Eve and tomorrow is the day to celebrate love, does not mean supervisors or fellow employees have an excuse to act inappropriately in the office.

In the case of Johnson v. West, 218 F. 3d 725 (7th Cir. 2000), a supervisor had continually harassed the plaintiff by engaging in appropriate activities and comments. On Valentine’s Day, the supervisor sent the plaintiff a greeting card and said, “I can’t imagine loving you more than I do…but tomorrow I will. Happy Valentine’s Day Sweetheart.” Though originally the court found in favor of the employer, the decision was reversed since the action constituted as a hostile work environment.

This case is not uncommon—employees, both male and female, receive greeting cards or love notes on Valentine’s Day. It is easy to dismiss these actions with a casual, “well it’s Valentine’s Day,” and shrug it off. In the state of California, employees have the right to work in an environment free from harassment. Sexual advances are the most obvious form of sexual harassment, but a plaintiff need only show that a hostile working environment existed to prevail on a claim.

Source: Mackey v. Dep’t of Corrections, 105 Cal.App.4th 945 (2003); Johnson v. West, 218 F. 3d 725 (7th Cir. 2000); HRlegalist.com