California and federal law generally makes it illegal to create a hostile workplace for an employee. In some cases, rumors that are spread about a person could make a workplace hostile or otherwise constitute sexual harassment. For instance, if an executive had a romantic relationship with an employee, it may be seen as the impetus for that employee's upward trajectory within the organization. However, employment decisions should not be made on anything other than merit.
If the employee deserves a promotion based on being the right person for the job, he or she should have a fair chance to obtain it. Holding a relationship with an executive against that person may be seen as sexual harassment or disparate treatment. In fact, failing to put a stop to rumors of an office romance could in itself be seen as harassment. That was the conclusion the 4th Circuit came to in a recent case involving a woman who was subject to rumors that she slept with her boss.
In the ruling, it found that the company perpetuated a stereotype that women are more likely then men to use sex to advance their career. Therefore, it is important to conduct an investigation to determine who may have started the rumor and put a stop to it.
Workers who are treated poorly by their employers or by fellow employees may be victims of employment law violations. Employment law violations may occur if a worker is denied a promotion, a raise or other benefits based on his or her gender. Workers may also be victims of rules violations if employers know about harassment and nothing is done to stop the behavior. Legal counsel might help individuals pursue legal action in such cases.