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John is the vice-president for sales of HCME Widgets and Jill is the office receptionist. Of course, there was office gossip when John answered after-hours pages from Jackie’s apartment and she sported a new diamond heart pendant at Valentine’s that she opened with the two dozen roses John had delivered to her desk. Jackie has called in sick a number of days requiring secretaries to fill in at the reception desk disrupting the flow of the office and raising eyebrows.

" Other times that he noticeably avoids speaking to Jackie at all even when she says, "Good morning" when he walks in the door in the morning.

Lately, John has been proposing the cost-saving and efficiency benefits of adopting a voice-mail system that eliminates the receptionist position altogether.

ACME’s human resources director has observed all this, approached the chief executive officer and said, "I think we have a sexual harassment complaint about John from Jackie just waiting to happen." The CEO replies, "You’ve got to be kidding." Should the CEO take this complaint seriously? One standard for the determination that sexual harassment exists is whether the workplace is hostile, intimidating or offensive to an employee because of that employee’s gender.

ACME also should adopt a policy on consensual romantic relationships.

Forty percent of the Fortune 500 companies have these policies and the number is growing.

He has been overhead telling Jackie: "Why can’t you get it right the first time?

The first time their co-workers become aware of their relationship was at the company holiday party when John and Jackie spent the evening with their arms around each other. When she has been there, John has complained to the office manager that the phone messages from customers taken by Jackie have incorrect information and call-back numbers.

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It requires each of them to sign a statement acknowledging the relationship, affirming that the relationship is consensual, that he or she has read and understands the sexual harassment policy and the complaint procedure under the policy.

This is true even if Jackie does not file a complaint.

The legal issue under the "reasonable woman" test adopted by California and federal courts is whether a "reasonable woman" in Jackie’s position would perceive that she is the object of John’s hostility because they are not going out together any more. Also irrelevant are considerations about what Jackie and John may have done together away from work like sleeping together. 96k effective January 1, 2000 an employer may not discipline an employee for off-duty conduct that is otherwise legal. If ACME doesn’t have a sexual harassment policy, it needs to adopt one now.

Their sleeping together would be relevant and would constitute sexual harassment if John has demanded sex from Jackie on return for favorable treatment of her at the office. If it has one, it needs to have it legally reviewed to make sure it meets the requirements of current law.

The policy can and should prohibit romantic relationships between employees in direct reporting relationships in the company.

ACME needs to investigate the relationship between John and Jackie for possible sexual harassment.

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