Is Sexual Harassment Outside of Work Still Illegal?
| Read Time: 3 minutes | Discrimination

Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it illegal for employers to fail to prevent or remediate work-related sexual harassment regardless of where the harassment occurs. That means you may report coworkers’ sexual harassment that occurs inside and outside of work to HR, your boss, or someone else at your company who has authority to stop the harassment. The law then requires your company to investigate your complaint, take action to stop the harassment, and adequately protect you or the person who is being harassed.

Not only do California employers have to respond to complaints of sexual harassment, but they also have to take steps in the first place to prevent it from happening. This means that California employers, at a minimum, must have written policies on sexual harassment and training in place for all workers.

California has many laws in place to protect you against work-related sexual harassment:

Work-Related Sexual Harassment Should Not Be Tolerated, Regardless of Where It Occurs

You may report coworkers’ sexual harassment that occurs inside or outside of the workplace and/or work hours. Though not widely known, employers may still be responsible for their employees’ sexual harassment that occurs outside the workday as they are for sexual harassment that happens inside the workday. Not only may such activity be illegal itself, but sexual harassment outside of the office and/or work hours can still contribute to a hostile work environment—an environment in which an employee feels uncomfortable working with another employee because of the abuse or harassment they are facing. However, to be actionable the sexual harassment must be “workplace related,” even if it occurs elsewhere.

Examples of coworkers’ sexual harassment that might occur outside of the workplace and/or work hours may include:

  • Sending calls, texts, emails, or letters of a sexual or romantic nature;
  • Sending social media messages or posts of a sexual or romantic nature;
  • Sending pornography or sexual pictures or cartoons without consent;
  • Quid pro quo offers: Using power or position to coerce you into sexual favors;
  • Leaving or sending unwanted gifts of a sexual or romantic nature;
  • Spreading sexual or romantic rumors;
  • Unwanted touching;
  • Stalking.

Work-related sexual harassment can take many forms. Examples of general sexual harassment include, among others:

  • Actual or attempted assault;
  • Touching, rubbing, massaging, leaning over, cornering, hugging, patting, stroking;
  • Following or standing too close;
  • Pressure for sexual favors or dates;
  • Sexual comments, jokes, innuendos, or stories;
  • Using rude or insulting language about either sex;
  • Making sex-related comments about a person’s physical characteristics, actions, or sexual preferences;
  • Asking about sexual history, preferences, fantasies, personal life;
  • Whistling or cat calling;
  • Looking a person up and down, staring;
  • Suggestive gestures, like winking, blowing kisses, smacking or licking lips;
  • Imitating sexual movements or making inappropriate gestures;
  • Sexual comments about a person’s body, clothing, or personal life;
  • Turning work discussions into sexual conversations;
  • Bragging about sexual prowess.

If you have reported sexual harassment to no avail or do not know whom to report it to (perhaps because your boss or supervisor is the one engaging in sexual harassment), you may want to contact an experienced employment lawyer.

Talk to an Experienced Employment Lawyer Today

At King & Siegel LLP, we are passionate about fighting social injustice in the workplace. You should never have to face sexual harassment through your work.

Need legal help? We provide free, confidential consultations to workers. You should contact us as soon as possible to make sure your claim is still within the time limits set by law. If you have experienced sexual harassment, contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 465-4802 to schedule a free consultation.

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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