With warmer weather quickly approaching, many employers are beginning to schedule happy hours, parties, softball games, and other off-site events that employees (and interns) look forward to attending. However, at offsite work events, employees might forget—or might not realize in the first place—that they are still in a workplace setting. This could result in unwelcome behavior, such as sexual harassment, which could leave an employer open to liability.
Under federal law, as well as the law of many states, cities, and municipalities, sexual harassment is considered a type of prohibited gender discrimination. New York City and New York State now require employers to provide their employees with anti-sexual harassment training. States such as California, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maine have similar requirements. Further, even where not required, case law and agency guidance recommend anti-harassment training in several other states. New York does require employers to establish policies against sexual harassment.
Employers should remind their employees that they remain subject to company policies at events outside the workplace.
No matter if harassment occurs at an outside work event or during normal business hours, employers should have clear policies and provide training so that employees are aware of applicable complaint procedures, and can bring any instance of potential sexual harassment to the employer’s attention.
While the summer can be a time for workplace comradery and other off-site events, employers should remember to make sure their employees are aware of their expectations to remain professional and to never engage in discriminatory or harassing behavior.
This tip is featured as Rule #7 in Halting Harassment’s Rules of the Road. Check out the rest of the Rules, and learn more about how Epstein Becker Green’s Halting Harassment e-learning course can help your organization foster a respectful and inclusive environment—both inside and outside the workplace.