Advocating For California Employee Rights

Sexual harassment doesn’t have to occur within the workplace

On Behalf of | Feb 27, 2023 | Employment Law

Many companies give their employees plenty of opportunities to “bond” and be around each other outside of work. They encourage employees to join in after-work Happy Hour gatherings, softball games, company picnics, volunteer projects and holiday parties.

A combination of alcohol and a relaxed atmosphere can lead some people to engage in behavior they wouldn’t dare try in the workplace. However, when that behavior involves unwanted and inappropriate advances, it’s as wrong as it would be at work. 

Employees have just as much right to report it, and employers are required to investigate it. According to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), if an employer doesn’t appropriately investigate and respond to inappropriate conduct that’s reported to them, they can be held liable. 

Hostile work environment

Why is your employer responsible for behavior outside of work? Unlike in the critically acclaimed TV series Severance, people’s memories of what happened at work and what happened in their private lives can’t be “severed.” If a co-worker or manager sexually harassed you at a going-away party for a colleague or at an off-site conference, it can create a hostile work environment for you to have to see and deal with them every day. Further, they could feel so disgruntled about being rejected that they may deny you project opportunities or avoid you, which could affect your future with the company.

Employers should be aware that sexual harassment can occur anywhere and make all employees aware of that as well. Unfortunately, not all employers are as knowledgeable about employment laws as they should be or, if they are, they may be lax about enforcing them. 

You have a right to report this behavior and expect to have it dealt with appropriately. You also have the right not to suffer retaliation in any way for reporting it. If you’ve suffered sexual harassment by a colleague or manager, regardless of where it occurred, it’s important to know your rights. It may help to have experienced legal guidance.