Having sex in your workplace will get you fired – even during the holidays

December 23, 2023

This shouldn’t have to be said in a civilized society – but if you have sex in your workplace, don’t cry foul when you get fired. Even during the holidays. Even if you engaged in sex with someone of the same sex. Even if you’ve never been in trouble before. Even if it was consensual or after hours.

The consequence to such an inappropriate action is termination. At least it should be.

A 24-year old now “former” Senate aide allegedly had sex in a Senate conference room with another man. The sex act was videotaped by one of the men, shared on a website, and now the Senate staffer is no longer employed. Capital Police are investigating if a crime was committed.

His boss, Sen. Ben Cardin, told reporters that he was “angry” and “disappointed” with the aide’s actions and that the conduct was a “breach of trust.” He allegedly told reporters, “It’s a tragic situation” and it has “presented a lot of anger and frustration. I’m concerned about our staff and the way that they feel about this and the Senate staff.”

The former staffer, however, is claiming he is the victim. He admitted that he used “poor judgment” in a since deleted post, but said he loved his job and “would never disrespect my workplace.” The staffer allegedly said, “Any attempts to characterize my actions otherwise are fabricated and I will be exploring what legal options are available to me in these matters.”

Except he did indeed disrespect his workplace by engaging in unprofessional and irresponsible actions at his place of work. He did breach the trust of his boss and his peers, and he showed a total lack of regard for the job and the work environment.

And as for the “legal actions” he plans to take — there probably aren’t any legitimate ones.

When I conduct workplace training around workplace harassment prevention and civility, I state very clearly not to have sex at work, or engage in any sexual activity in the workplace. Many people laugh wondering why this even needs to be said. It’s said because it has to be said – this situation with the senate staffer is not an isolated incident. It happens too often in our workplaces.

Engaging in romantic activity in the workplace makes other people uncomfortable and is entirely inappropriate regardless of consent. No kissing. No holding hands. No sexual activity.

When I comment there should be no kissing or holding hands, inevitably someone will say their spouse works there. That doesn’t matter. While at work – you and your spouse or romantic partner are coworkers – not husband and wife.

Anything sexual in the workplace is on my list of “never evers.” This goes beyond sexual activity in the workplace. Injecting any sexual content into the workplace is off-limits – even if it’s consensual. No one at work should know about your sex life, or lack thereof, and there should be no propositions, comments about sex, flirting, or inappropriate images (a manager sent an employee an image of a masochistic mask when she asked what masks to wear during the pandemic), or any exposure of private parts (including via text message or a request for such images).

The list of off-limits sexual behaviors is endless but the concept is simple. Eliminate sexual content from the workplace.

Unfortunately, the reality is much different for most people. We live in a highly sexualized society, and social media has made sharing sexual content normalized. This causes coworkers to think about sexual jokes, comments and actions frequently. Nothing can prevent people from thinking about engaging in sexual activity, making sexual jokes or “That’s what she said” remarks.

However, we can all control what we say and how we act.