Can Sexual Harassment Happen Outside of the Workplace?

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sexual harassment outside workplaceDo not let the name “workplace sexual harassment” throw you off. Unlawful workplace sexual harassment does not have to occur in your office or at your worksite for you to have the right to seek legal relief. Regardless of what it might try to argue, your employer can still be liable for sexual harassment outside of the workplace and sexual harassment after work.  

While you have many rights, asserting them under federal and Maryland anti-harassment laws can be taxing. You deserve to work in an environment free from the threat of sex-based discrimination, and you deserve a good advocate who can make sure your rights are respected. Our top-rated attorneys at Smithey Law Group, LLC can safeguard you against sexual harassment and hold your employer and harasser accountable for any harm you suffer from discrimination. 

What Does the Law Say About Workplace Sexual Harassment? 

The two most important laws that protect employees in Maryland from sexual harassment and other forms of employment discrimination are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and State Government Article Section 20-602 of the Annotated Code of Maryland (Section 20-602). Let’s review which employment practices these laws forbid.

United States Anti-Discrimination Laws

Section 703 of Title VII states that it is illegal for an employer to take the following actions against you because of your sex, religion, race, national origin, or color

  • Terminate you,
  • Deny work benefits, 
  • Segregate you, 
  • Give you unequal work terms or opportunities, 
  • Refuse to hire you, or
  • Treat you unequally or poorly.

It is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because of a disability or your age (over 40). However, age and disability discrimination are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.   

Maryland Anti-Discrimination Law

Section 20-602 of Maryland’s law prohibits discrimination and states that all individuals in Maryland must have an equal opportunity to employment, regardless of protected characteristics, such as:

  • Sex,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Religion,
  • Race,
  • National origin,
  • Marital status,
  • Gender identity,
  • Disability,
  • Color,
  • Ancestry, or 
  • Age. 

Under Maryland and federal law, sexual harassment is sex-based discrimination that can unlawfully deny an individual equal access to employment. 

How Does the Law Define Sexual Harassment?

In legal terms, sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct motivated by sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, or a sex-related condition. There are two types of sexual harassment:

  • Quid pro quo harassment, which means an employer or supervisor requires an employee to accept unwanted sexual advances or requests in exchange for employment benefits; and 
  • Hostile work environment harassment, which means an employee has had to endure unwelcome, sex-based conduct so extreme or prevalent that a reasonable person would call the employee’s workplace hostile. 

If you look closely at the state and federal definitions of employment discrimination and harassment, the law does not say that employment harassment has to occur in a specific location to be actionable. In fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which is tasked with enforcing Title VII) explicitly states that harassment is illegal whether it occurs on or off the work site. Actionable sexual harassment only needs to affect your access to equal employment and a safe working environment. 

Examples of Sexual Harassment Outside of the Workplace

Sexual harassment in any location can come in many forms. Harassment can be offensive jokes, insults, explicit conversations, sexual advances, unwanted touching, invasions of personal space, graphic gestures, or graphic displays. These behaviors can easily occur outside of work and affect your ability to do your job. Sexual harassment outside of your worksite or after work can include

  • A boss or coworker calling you at home to request sexual favors; 
  • A coworker constantly telling sex-based jokes or using slurs at after-hours functions hosted by your employer; 
  • A supervisor letting you know over a personal text message that your job depends on your acceptance of their sexual advances; 
  • A coworker making offensive, sex-based statements or invading your personal space whenever you see them outside of work; and 
  • Any other unwelcome, sex-based conduct that would create a hostile work environment for a reasonable person. 

Your employer and coworkers should respect your boundaries inside and outside of the office. If someone from your workplace is engaging in discriminatory behavior that affects you, speak to an experienced attorney immediately about your options for legal relief.  

Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint or Lawsuit

If a supervisor, coworker, or non-employee over whom your employer has control is harassing you, you can take the following legal actions

If you win your complaint or lawsuit, you can recover financial damages, reinstatement of employment status, reinstatement of work benefits, policy changes at work, punitive damages, and legal costs. To help ensure you recover everything to which you are entitled after suffering harassment, it is crucial that you seek attorney advice.

Smithey Law Group Has the Experience to Help You

No matter where the misconduct occurs, the effects of workplace sexual harassment can be catastrophic. You should be compensated for and protected from the harassment of anyone under your employer’s control. You should also have an advocate with significant experience in safeguarding employee rights. At Smithey Law Group, our experienced sexual harassment attorneys focus solely on resolving employment disputes, and we are recognized as top attorneys in Maryland. 

We are leaders in the Maryland legal community who approach employment disputes with a depth of knowledge, passion, and experience. If you need an award-winning legal representative who knows how to make the most of your claim against employer misconduct, we are available to you. Do not hesitate to call us or reach out to us on our website for professional assistance.

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Joyce Smithey, a seasoned employment and labor law attorney, has over 22 years of experience representing both employers and employees in Maryland and D.C. Her practice, rooted in a deep understanding of employment law, spans administrative hearings to federal litigation. Joyce's approach is comprehensive, focusing on protecting client interests while ensuring legal compliance. A Harvard graduate, her career began in Fortune 500 companies, transitioning to law after a degree from Boston University School of Law. Joyce's expertise is recognized by numerous awards, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women. At Smithey Law Group LLC, which she founded in 2018, Joyce continues to champion employment rights, drawing on her rich background in law and business.

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