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'My boss just asked me out on a date. What do I do?'

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Jul 17, 2022 5:04 pm

Trigger warning: this article contains mentions of sexual harassment. 

Each week, PhilSTAR L!fe addresses a reader's concern about relationships, career, and anything they want to talk about through its advice column: Asking for a Friend.

Dear L!fe friend,

I am a fresh graduate just starting out in the advertising industry. Since we are creatives, we have late nights in the office for our storyboards and other to-dos, which have become a usual thing for all of us. 

Last week, things got a bit off between my boss and me. I am always eager to learn new things, especially since I'm still a newbie. When I asked my boss for some feedback about my work, he offered to "talk about it" over dinner. I thought it was just going to be casual, but then I found it a bit off because he mentioned he would take me to a "nice hotel" where he can share with me some tips on how I can thrive in my career.

Is it safe to assume that he just asked me out on a date? Me and my friends think so. I am not attracted to my boss—I only see him as my superior. We are not on the same page. I'm afraid to say no because he might hate me afterwards and let it affect my work later on. I really need this job and I love it so far. What do I do?

—Advertising Girl

Dear Advertising Girl,

If you feel iffy about the dinner invitation, create a business atmosphere by bringing a colleague along. Say the same colleague wants to learn tips from him as well. If your boss is not making a pass on you, it will be okay with him for you to bring a friend from the office. If it’s not okay with him, read the sign. Beware. 

If you go alone, you might send the wrong signal that “it’s okay.” And then things will go awkward, awry, and awful. 

It does not matter whether your boss is single or married. It’s a question of whether or not he’s making a pass. You felt it already when you said “things got a bit off between my boss and me.” It could just be your feeling, however. The best is to test the waters—bring someone with you.

Now, another scene says that it is unfair to presume that your boss is up for something untoward against you. Paano kung nagmamagandang loob lamang naman talaga siya? 

If in any event, your boss continues to hit on you, that will bring to the fore the issue of sexual harassment. Be armed with your knowledge of Republic Act 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995. 

“Sexual harassment is a very complicated issue and it’s something every employee and company should be diligent about in preventing or deterring the commission of the act. The case of sexual harassment ultimately falls in the HR’s lap,” advises Mary Rose Santos Dorado, the HR head of Miladay Jewels.

Is it best to address head-on the issue by discussing the matter with the head of personnel? “Addressing head-on is the key. She should call the attention of the Human Resources head and discuss the action of her immediate superior,” she said. 

Rose summarized the core concept of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act:

“Sexual harassment is an imposition of misplaced ‘superiority,’ which is enough to dampen an employee’s spirit and their capacity for advancement. It affects the sense of judgment; it changes their life.”

“Sexual harassment may be committed by the following: employer, employee, manager, supervisor, agent of the employer, teacher, instructor, coach, trainor, or any person of authority, influence or moral ascendancy over another in a work or training or education environment.” 

I may be jumping the gun, Advertising Girl, but let me say it just the same. According to Rose, sexual harassment is committed in a work-related environment when: 

“Sexual favor is made as a condition in the hiring or in the employment, re-employment or continued employment of the said individual, or in granting said individual favorable compensation, terms of conditions, promotions or privileges; or the refusal to grant the sexual favor results in limiting, segregating or classifying the employee which in any way would discriminate, deprive or diminish employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect said employee.

“The acts would impair the employee’s rights or privileges under existing labor laws; or

“The acts would result in intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for the employee.” 

Sexual harassment is an imposition of misplaced ‘superiority,’ which is enough to dampen an employee’s spirit and their capacity for advancement.

Rose said, “Reporting complaints is necessary so the authorized person to handle the concerns will facilitate timely and accurate decisions since it’s difficult to stamp out occurrences of sexual harassment completely. Thus, the HR should establish proper documentation.”

She added, “Last, the resolution process of HR will play a key role here. Let’s remember that both complainant and accused party are employees. Thus, due process shall be accorded to them in compliance with the company policies and DOLE labor standards.” 

I hope you find comfort and safety in those words, Advertising Girl. 

Your L!fe friend,

Büm

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