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Sterling Employment Law

Do sexual harassment laws extend outside the workplace?

Most of our Detroit blog readers are probably well aware of the fact that a boss or supervisor who inappropriately touches or talks to them at work has committed sexual harassment. But when such behavior takes place outside of the workplace, whether it constitutes harassment is not always entirely clear.

Many employees are hesitant to call attention to or report their supervisor for possible sexual harassment that takes place at social functions out of fear that doing so will result in a cancellation of future events or, worse, result in their firing or a similar form of retaliation. However, that fear should not prevent an employee from putting a stop to inappropriate and illegal harassment.

Consider this example. A group of coworkers plays together in a social softball league. The team is not sponsored by the coworkers' place of business, but the team is made up primarily of employees, including a supervisor and several of his subordinates.

When the female employees make a good play, the supervisor rushes to them, offering hugs and kisses other inappropriate touching. The contact makes the employees uncomfortable, but they are not sure whether they can report it because it took place outside of work. Do the supervisor's actions constitute harassment even though they took place far from the office?

The answer to that question is, of course, yes. If the behavior is inappropriate and unwanted, it is harassment, regardless of where it took place. The employees should take report it to their company's human resources department with no fear of retaliation or other negative effects.

Source: Daily Breeze, "Is boss guilty of sexual harassment at co-ed softball games?" Ron Sokol, Nov. 20, 2012

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