An Incident on a Business Trip Could Be Cause for Legal Action
As business travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, many employees welcome the opportunities for team bonding, career advancement, and acquiring new clients. People who work from home full-time might look forward to the change of scenery and the chance to see their colleagues in person.
But some employees might find themselves in uncomfortable or even disturbing situations while on their work trips, and may not know what their legal rights are or what to do.
Under the stress of the situation, they may not even know whether a legal violation occurred. The lines between work and play on business trips are often blurry, and some employees may operate under the erroneous assumption that standard workplace policies and behavioral standards don’t apply.
An employee also might not know whether to report the incident to the company’s Human Resources office; notify the police; take a leave of absence; or just quit altogether. They may fear that reporting the incident could cost them their job.
A knowledgeable labor and employment law attorney can help individuals navigate these difficult situations by determining the best course of action and vigorously defending their rights. The lawyers at Livelihood Law, LLC, have years of experience counseling, advising, and representing employees in workplace sexual harassment and discrimination matters, and routinely appear in front of labor commissions and state and federal courts.
What is Sexual Harassment?
In Colorado, federal and state laws govern workplace sexual harassment. Generally speaking, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Sexual harassment can affect a person’s employment status, interfere with their work performance, or lead to an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Workplace Sexual Harassment Can Occur on a Business Trip
While many employees are familiar with the concept of workplace sexual harassment as something that occurs in the office, many aren’t aware that the same laws apply to harassment that occurs outside of the office on business and work-related trips.
These laws say that employers must treat sexual harassment allegations about incidents outside of the office the same way they would treat incidents in the office. Sexual harassment during business travel can create a hostile work environment when the employees return to the office and have to work together, just like harassment in the office would.
Both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment, but a 2018 survey by AIG Travel and the Global Business Travel Association reveals that 72 percent of female business travelers cite sexual harassment as their top concern.
Many work trips feel more relaxed and social than typical office days, with co-workers engaging in more recreational activities together than they normally would—or at least activities that don’t feel like work. Colleagues on a work trip may go out to dinner together in the evenings, or stay out late for drinks, and there can be pressure for everyone to join in.
The relaxed atmosphere, sense of fun and camaraderie, and, often alcohol, can lead some employees to believe the rules governing appropriate workplace conduct don’t apply.
Sexual harassment on a business trip can take many forms, including:
- Unwelcome visits to a co-worker’s hotel room
- Invasions of personal space (e.g., sitting too close in a bar)
- Inappropriate emails or text messages
- Unwanted, inappropriate touching
- Sexual or romantic propositions
Employees on work trips are there as employees. These advances are no more permissible late at night on a business trip to another city than they would be if they were made on a workday afternoon in the office.
Consult a Knowledgeable Labor and Employment Law Attorney
If you were subjected to behavior on a work trip that would clearly violate workplace standards and policies back in the office, you might have cause for legal action. The experienced attorneys at Livelihood Law, LLC, are dedicated to workplace fairness and the protection of employee rights. They can help you assess the situation and determine the best course of action under the circumstances. Contact us today.