Off-Duty Parties Sometimes Carry Liability

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Q. A recent sexual harassment complaint reported the conduct of management employees at a private party. The party was outside the normal workday and wasn't sponsored by the company. What is the company's liability? —W.S., Wisconsin

A. Although there's no bright line, the fact that the alleged conduct occurred after hours at an event not sponsored by the company is very helpful. Courts are generally willing to recognize that senior managers are entitled to do what they want on their own time as long as it does not affect the work environment.

Your investigation of the complaint should explore whether and to what extent the off-duty conduct has spilled over into the regular workday. While the company may not be liable for off-duty conduct that is truly off-duty, the result is often different in cases involving company-sponsored events.

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