Workplace sexual harassment is illegal under state and federal law. In some cases, employers might also be liable when sexual harassment happens at a place or event outside of their employee’s regular working hours, including company parties, picnics, receptions, dinners, and others when their employees are present because of their employment relationship. Employers might be liable even when their employees are not mandated to attend when sexual harassment occurs at off-hours events. Employers are just as responsible for sexual harassment that occurs at these types of events as they are when it occurs during an employee’s normal working hours. For example, if a supervisor or co-worker physically gropes an employee at an offsite work event or over social media, the employer might be liable. Here is what you need to know from the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler.
Examples of Inappropriate Conduct Outside of Work Might Be Illegal Sexual Harassment
Courts have held that inappropriate conduct can constitute illegal sexual harassment even when it occurs outside of work. For example, if a supervisor inappropriately contacts an underling at a bar, the employer might be liable in a sexual harassment case. Similarly, sexual harassment via text messages or social media sites might also qualify as illegal workplace harassment.
Sexual harassment outside of the workplace can still be considered to be the responsibility of an employer because it can create a hostile work environment. Employees who are harassed by their coworkers or supervisors when they are away from their jobs must still interact with them in the workplace. Whether harassment happens during work hours or outside of the workplace, employers must still take steps to address it. They should make sure to address these types of harassment in their company policies and training materials.
Need for Proactivity
Employers should be proactive and take steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. Being proactive includes focusing on creating a positive workplace culture and environment. They should also focus on how they envision the work environment instead of on what they do not want to see happen. Including employees in an effort to create a positive work environment is also important. Employees should be trained to report inappropriate conduct they might witness and support them when they file reports.
Having a strong sexual harassment training program can help companies achieve improved employee engagement and better outcomes. No matter where sexual harassment occurs, it should be reported and addressed. Employees, supervisors, and leaders should all understand that creating and maintaining a safe and supportive work environment continues even when an employee is out of the office.
Reporting Sexual Harassment Outside of Work
Employees can report sexual harassment by their coworkers or supervisors wherever and whenever it occurs. Employers might still be liable for sexual harassment of their employees that happen outside of their working hours. However, sexual harassment must be related to the workplace when it happens somewhere else.
Some of the forms that sexual harassment might take outside of the workplace include the following:
- Sending sexual letters, emails, or text messages or making unwanted sexual or romantic phone calls
- Sending unwanted sexual or romantic messages on social media
- Sending unwanted pornographic materials to a coworker
- Using a positon of authoriy to try to coerce an employee into giving sexual favors
- Sending unwanted gifts of a romantic or sexual nature
- Spreading romantic or sexual rumors about an employee
- Touching an employee without consent
- Stalking an employee
- Attempted or actual sexual assault
- Standing too close or following an employee
- Pressuring a coworker for a date or sexual favors
- Making sexual jokes
- Making sexual comments about an employee’s physical characteristics or sexual preferences
- Insulting an employee based on his or her sex
- Inappropriate gestures and imitations of sexual movements
- Staring suggestively
- Asking about an employee’s sexual history and personal life
- Boasting about sexual prowess
- Sexually commenting on an employee’s clothing, personal life, or body
Talk to Swartz Swidler
If you are being sexually harassed by a coworker or supervisor, and your employer has not done anything about it, you should speak to the lawyers at Swartz Swidler. We offer confidential, free consultations to employees. Call us today at (856) 685-7420 for a free case evaluation so that you can learn more about your legal options and rights.