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Sexual Harassment Incidents Need Not Occur At The Workplace

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An employer may face liability for sexual harassment to which an employee is subjected after hours and outside the workplace setting.  In the New Hampshire Federal Court case of McGuinn-Rowe v. Foster’s Daily Democrat, the female employee, an account representative, alleged that a management-level employee leaned against her at a bar and, later the same night, rubbed himself against her.

The employer argued to the Court that it should not be held liable for the conduct occurring at the bar because “it occurred away from the workplace and outside normal working hours.” The Court disagreed.  First, the Court said that the incident at the bar was “relevant to the issue of whether the [employee] experienced a hostile environment at work.” The Court found that the harassment of an employee both at work and at her home when she was off-duty, supported an actionable claim for sexual harassment.  The New Hampshire Federal Court also held that the employer could be held liable for the harassment if it knew or should have known about the harassment’s occurrence and failed to take appropriate steps to halt it, regardless of whether the harassment occurred on or off work premises.

So, just because a boorish supervisor or co-employee harasses you away from the workplace rather than at the workplace does not mean that the employer is off the hook.  If you are a victim of such harassment, be sure to notify your employer promptly so that the employer has the opportunity to meet its obligation to undertake corrective action.  You should also consult an experienced employment attorney to gain a full understanding of your rights.