coworkers drink alcoholic beverages at in cozy bar.

What If My Coworker Sexually Harassed Me Outside of Work?

By Douglas Lipsky

Last Friday, Sarah met her coworker, John, at a local café for what she thought was an innocent coffee. But the friendly chat quickly turned uncomfortable when John made inappropriate comments and advances. What can you do if a coworker sexually harasses you outside of work? It’s a gray area many employees grapple with. This post discusses the steps to protect yourself, ensuring that your work environment remains safe and respectful, no matter where you are.”

Defining Sexual Harassment Outside of the Workplace. 

Sexual harassment outside of the workplace, while occurring in a different setting, carries the same damaging implications as it does within office boundaries. Sexual harassment is defined by the nature of the behavior, not just the location where it happens. Here are critical aspects to consider:

  • Unwanted Sexual Advances: This can include any unwelcome sexual behavior, from suggestive comments to physical advances, regardless of the setting.
  • Persistent Behavior: Repeated actions or remarks that create a hostile or intimidating environment.

A coworker’s actions outside of work can still impact the workplace dynamics and an individual’s sense of safety and comfort at work. Harassment in social settings, company events, or even during casual interactions can contribute to a toxic work culture. 

Workplace Policies and Laws

Workplace policies and laws are pivotal in addressing sexual harassment, whether inside or outside the office. Employers often establish comprehensive policies that extend to off-site conduct when it affects the work environment or involves coworkers. 

Many organizations explicitly state that their sexual harassment policies apply to employee conduct outside of work, particularly at company-sponsored events or in situations involving coworkers.

Moreover, state and federal Laws such as the New York State Human Rights Law and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace and can be interpreted to include off-site incidents, especially when they impact the work environment.

Understanding these guidelines empowers employees to recognize harassment in any form and take appropriate action supported by company policies and the law.

Documenting and Reporting the Incident

Documenting and reporting an incident of sexual harassment outside of work is a critical step in addressing the issue. Begin by meticulously recording every detail of the encounter as soon as possible, including the date, time, location, and what was said or done. If there were any witnesses, note their names and contact information. This documentation will be invaluable when reporting the incident to your employer or legal authorities.

When ready to report, approach your HR department or a trusted manager. Provide them with your detailed account and any evidence you have gathered. Be clear and concise in your explanation, focusing on how the incident has impacted your work environment. Remember, a well-documented report can significantly strengthen your case and aid in the resolution process.

When To Take Legal Action

Taking legal action in cases of sexual harassment outside of work is a step to consider when internal resolution efforts fail or if the incident severely affects your work environment and well-being. It’s particularly pertinent if the harassment continues despite reporting or if you face retaliation for bringing the issue forward. In these situations, legal intervention can ensure your rights are protected and the matter is taken seriously.

Consulting with an employment lawyer is advisable to understand your legal options and the strength of your case. Lipsky Lowe can offer guidance on navigating the complexities of sexual harassment claims, help build a solid case, and represent you in legal proceedings if necessary. This step is about seeking justice and ensuring a safe, respectful workplace.

Talk To An Experience Sexual Harassment Lawyer

If you’re experiencing sexual harassment by a coworker outside of work, know that you don’t have to navigate this alone. At Lipsky Lowe, we are dedicated to helping you understand your rights and the best course of action. Contact us to ensure your workplace remains safe and respectful, no matter where you are.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.