A recent legal decision out of Quebec is a reminder to employers of the importance of thorough investigations for allegations of sexual harassment — even if the incident occurs outside the workplace.
The case involved an employee who was terminated in 2019 following an external investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. The employee sought reinstatement, arguing that if any assault occurred, it happened at his colleague’s home and was not work-related.
Unsurprisingly, the Labour Administrative Tribunal disagreed. It is well established law that the workplace extends outside of the employer’s office when an incident occurs between two employees or between employees and clients.
“Even though the events occurred outside the workplace, they justified the employer’s action as explained above. The misconduct remained the same, namely psychological and sexual harassment of a co-worker. This constitutes serious misconduct that allowed the employer to disregard the principle of the gradation of sanctions in order to fulfil its obligations,” the decision reads.
An employee’s behaviour which impacts colleagues, clients, vendors or the employer’s reputation, even if the behaviour occurs outside the office, can be cause for discipline or termination. An employer is required to investigate and address the behaviour in accordance with its duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace for all employees.