Sexual Harassment Occurs at the Work Site or in a Work Related Environment
last updated 8 January 2010

Laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace do not generally limit protection to victims of harassment occurring at the work site itself. Sexual harassment may be actionable if it occurs in any place where employees happen to be for work related purposes. This includes traveling to work-related conferences or branch offices, attending staff parties, attending conferences, or at the home of a colleague for a work-related activity. For example, protection against sexual harassment under Canadian law "extends to incidents occurring at or away from the workplace, during or outside normal working hours provided such acts are committed within the course of employment, or in the provision of goods, services, facilities or accommodation." From Canadian Human Rights Commission, Harassment and the Canadian Human Rights Act (based on Chapter H-6, Section 14 of The Canadian Human Rights Act).

United States and Canadian law distinguish between the work site and work related environments on the one hand and a situation in which colleagues or employees meet in a purely private setting on the other hand. If harassment occurs in private settings such as a private party, vacation sites, or conferences unrelated to work, United States and Canadian law does not protect employees from the harassment, unless adverse consequences are brought back to the work environment. For example, a sexual solicitation made at a private party by a person who works for the same employer would not give rise to a complaint under the U.S. and Canadian legal systems unless the person who turned down the solicitation later suffered adverse consequences at work.