Ben Kerrigan and Allison LaCroix have worked together for five years. Although he has kept it to himself, Ben adores Allison, hanging on every word she says and watching every move she makes. Ben feels considerable guilt for his amorous emotions, since he has been married to his wife Jeannie for seven years, and since Allison is also married. From Allison’s perspective, her association with Ben is purely professional, although she does consider him a dear friend, enjoying his sense of humor, sharing with him many of her daily experiences, and consoling in him when life is unkind.

On Friday morning, Ben asks Allison to join him for a quick lunch, stating “You drive, and I’ll buy.” They choose a local delicatessen, and are seated at a “table for two.” Aware that life is short, and weakened by five years of keeping a torturous secret, Ben confesses all to Allison over turkey subs and tomato soup. Ben proclaims, “Allison, I am tired of living a lie. You are not just the woman of my dreams, you are real, and I want you for my own. I worship you, and I want to share my life with you. You are the most beautiful and intelligent woman I have ever met, and I am willing to leave Jeannie for you. I hate to hurt your husband, but I love you more than he does. As far as work goes, we can try our best to keep it a secret; if not, I am willing to find another job. Tell me how you feel, Allison.”

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At first, Allison is speechless; her face then reddens, and she finds the words: “Ben, I thought you were my friend, but instead, you are a lustful stalker. I feel violated. For crying out loud, Ben, we are both married. Don’t you understand the true meaning of “family values?” Allison immediately rushes from the restaurant, leaving Ben to find a cab, and Ben wonders if he has said too much.

The following Monday, Ben is called into the office of his supervisor, Alex Friedman. Friedman informs Ben that much to his regret, Allison has filed a sexual harassment claim against him, and that although she would like to resolve the matter internally, she will file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if the incident is not addressed satisfactorily. Friedman has scheduled an internal hearing in two weeks. The supervisor states that if Allison’s claim holds, Ben will be terminated in light of the company’s “zero-tolerance” anti-sexual harassment policy.

Do you think Ben’s statements constitute sexual harassment? Why or why not? Make an argument for how you think the law will conclude this case.


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