Sexual Harassment Outside the Office

Employment Discrimination Lawyers Serving Individuals Throughout New York

Some people assume that sexual harassment must occur in the office or during ordinary work hours to be actionable. However, the law protects you from this unlawful behavior by coworkers and supervisors even if you are away from the office under certain circumstances. Employers are responsible if they fail to attempt to prevent the harassment of non-supervisory employees at a company-sponsored event. Both state and federal laws prohibit sexual harassment at events sponsored by employers. If you are affected by this type of behavior in New York, you should contact the employment discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates.

Blurring the Line of Appropriate Professional Conduct

When employees are away from the office, they may forget about professional boundaries, assuming the same rules do not apply. This type of forgetfulness happens most obviously at holiday parties where workers are encouraged to drink and have fun. It can also happen at job-related lunches, teambuilding exercises, and at clients' or customers' workplaces. You should know that if you joke around with the harasser or otherwise signal acceptance of the conduct at the time, your employer may use this conduct as evidence to undercut a claim. You should, if at all possible, tell the harasser to stop if you are offended and use the employer's grievance system to file a complaint.

Sexual harassment outside the office can include:

  • Sexual joking or sexist comments;
  • Sexual advances or unlawful touching;
  • Pressuring coworkers into sharing too much information about their personal lives;
  • Games that require coworkers to physically touch; or
  • Giving sexually suggestive or romantic gifts at a work event.

Sexual harassment is a type of gender discrimination that is prohibited by Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles claims arising from Title VII. New York's Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law also prohibit sexual harassment. There are two types of this illegal conduct: "quid pro quo" sexual harassment and "hostile work environment."

Quid pro quo sexual harassment happens when a supervisor or another person in a position of authority expects an employee to submit to sexual harassment in order to gain a promotion. It also occurs when an employee is fired, is demoted, or has his or her salary reduced due to a rejection of sexually harassing behavior. If, for example, a drunken supervisor offers you a raise for going out with him, or a client suggests that she will ask to be transferred to another representative from your office if you don't submit to her sexual advances, these could be construed as quid pro quo harassment. In both situations, you should report the client's behavior to your employer so that it has an opportunity to correct it.

A claim based on hostile work environment happens when conduct unreasonably interferes with a person’s ability to do his or her job duties or creates an intimidating workplace. An isolated instance that occurs away from the office is not likely to count as a hostile work environment unless it is very severe, such as an assault. However, a pattern of sexual harassment at work-sponsored events, client meetings away from the office, or holiday parties, or harassment that starts outside the office and moves into the office, can cause a hostile work environment.

Discuss Your Sexual Harassment Claim with a New York Attorney

Sexual harassment cases are often challenging because the only two witnesses may be the harasser and you. However, the New York lawyers at Phillips & Associates firmly believe that nobody should have to deal with unwelcome conduct in connection with employment activities. We are aggressive, experienced advocates for people who have been sexually harassed. Contact us at (212) 248-7431 or through our online form.

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