Employers can be held legally responsible for acts of discrimination or harassment that occur in the workplace, or in connection with a person’s employment.
In some circumstances, an employer can be liable for discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment that occurs at a work social function such as a Christmas party or post-work celebration drinks.
This liability for acts that occur in the workplace or in connection with a person’s employment is called ‘vicarious liability’.
Example: At a workplace function, a partner from the company told an employee that she was beautiful and made comments about her body. This could be sexual harassment.
Employers can minimise their liability for acts of discrimination and harassment that occur at work-related events by taking all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment from occurring in these situations.
Preventive measures can include implementing workplace policies that address discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, providing training on discrimination and harassment to staff and managers, and establishing an internal complaint handling process.