Most people believe that sexual harassment involving a boss or fellow employee can only be reported if it occurs within the workplace or perhaps at a work-related event like a conference or holiday party. Too often, inappropriate and even aggressive actions go unreported because they occurred at a Happy Hour gathering or a company softball game.
It’s important for all employees – and employers — to understand that under the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California employers must investigate all complaints of sexual harassment as well as other types of harassment, discrimination and retaliation by employees regardless of where or when it occurred.
There is no “off-the-record” reporting
Employers are also required to investigate reports even if they aren’t made by the person who suffered the harassment. Often, a person who has been harassed or worse is afraid to report what happened for any number of reasons. However, if someone else witnessed it or even was aware of it and reported it to Human Resources (HR) or a manager, it has to be investigated. That’s the case even if the alleged victim doesn’t want it reported.
Under the FEHA, you can’t make an “off-the-record” report of harassment or other prohibited actions. Just by hearing the report, a manager or HR representative has been given the responsibility to act on it.
A hostile work environment
Why is it the employer’s business how employees treat each other outside the workplace? When someone has to return to work and be around a person who harassed them or worse, that can affect how they feel about being in the workplace and their ability to do their own job. That’s what’s known as a hostile work environment.
If your employer has failed to appropriately investigate a report of sexual harassment because it occurred away from the workplace, it’s crucial that you know you and assert your rights. It can help to have experienced legal guidance.