An employer can be liable for acts of discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment, that occur in the workplace or in connection with a person’s employment. This is called ‘vicarious liability’.
It means that employers can be liable for acts by their employees that occur at work-related events, such as conferences, training workshops, business trips and work-related social events, such as Christmas parties.
Example: An employee was sexually harassed by another employee in the early hours of the morning in a serviced apartment they were sharing while attending a work related conference. A court held the employer legally responsible for the 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, among others, 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.