DEAR ABBY: Do you think it's inappropriate to ask an 18-year-old, part-time female employee to go to lunch with two other men? I'm 36, happily married and have a son. The other men are also happily married. One of them has two kids. It was an innocent lunch at a fast-food joint.
My female manager had a problem with it. She told all three of us never to ask her again. The girl is still in high school and works in the afternoons after class. She has worked with us for six months. She happened to work the full day when we asked her to come with us. There were no other female employees included.
I feel we did nothing wrong, but I'd like your opinion. -- WONDERING IN MOUNT LAUREL, N.J.
DEAR WONDERING: From my perspective, it was thoughtful of you to ask the young lady to lunch. However, I'm not an expert in labor law, so I consulted a prominent Los Angeles labor lawyer, Ann Kane Smith. Here's what she had to say:
"That situation is a catch-22 for both men and women. Men complain they are wrongfully accused of sexual harassment in the workplace -- and women complain they are left out of the 'old boys' network.'
"I don't have all of the facts, but the female supervisor may be maternal and overreacting. The situation will resolve itself when the girl graduates from high school and either goes off to college or joins the work force full time.
"There is nothing wrong with colleagues or co-workers of any age and either sex having lunch together, as long as everyone behaves appropriately."