Is my employer responsible if I am sexually harassed at a company-sponsored event outside of working hours?

An employer may be liable for sexual harassment if it occurs at an event or place outside of normal working hours, such as a company picnic, party, dinner, reception or other event in which the employees are in attendance because of an employment relationship. Even if attendance is not mandatory, employers may be liable for sexual harassment that occurs at the event.

Under California law, an employer will be liable for sexual harassment of a supervisor if the supervisor is acting within the scope of their employment when the unwelcome behavior occurs. This can also include instances when the harassment began at the place of employment and continued outside the place of employment. An employer can also be liable for the behavior of a non-supervisor if they knew or should have known that the harassment occurred and took no actionable steps to halt it, regardless of when or where the harassment occurred.

Time and place are not limiting conditions when determining employer liability if the sexual harassment occurs because of an employment relationship between the harasser and victim, or because an employment relationship caused those involved to attend the event where the harassment occurred. Sexual harassment that occurs at someone’s home or at a company event can reasonably create a hostile work environment during regular work hours or at the job site, and thus, employers can be found liable.

Employers can also be liable for sexual harassment that occurs through email, text messages or on social media.

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