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When Sexual Harassment Occurs Beyond the Office

A group of your co-workers gets together at a local café after work. One of them deliberately touches you inappropriately. It has happened before as well. On another occasion, some of the people from your office are working on an off-site project. During that project, a colleague who has been unsuccessfully trying to get romantically involved with you propositions you. At a birthday party for an employee at someone’s home, your supervisor takes you aside and tells you that if you continue spurning his amorous overtures, you can say goodbye for good to any chance of a raise or promotion.

All of these actions make you very uneasy, uncomfortable and overwhelmed. You have begun to loathe being at work. You don’t know what to say or do – or even if you should speak up to your boss or to human resources. You could be wondering whether these incidents can be considered sexual harassment because they all took place beyond the confines of the office.

Sexual harassment is not limited to what happens on the job during the workday

If a colleague or person higher up does or says something that can be classified as sexual harassment and it takes place in a non-office setting, it’s sexual harassment. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “Employees are prohibited from harassing others both on and off the employer premises and during or outside of work hours.”

Sexual harassment anywhere can instigate a hostile work environment

If an employee or a supervisor sexually harasses another employee at a time that is not part of the workday at a location other than the office, that establishes a hostile work environment when the two are working. Employers and other executive-level individuals are not absolved from responsibility.

You can report the sexual harassment to human resources or to your manager (if they’re not the harasser). If that doesn’t resolve the issue, you might also want to seek guidance to determine what your legal options are.

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