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How can an action outside of work with a non coworker lead to a sexual harrassment accusation at work by the same person?

Ridgecrest, CA |

I met a woman outside of work a couple months ago, we exchanged emails and text messages before discovering we worked on the same military base. Afterwards there was limited contact through work because I do deal with her boss, but the contact has been friendly, not flirtatious. Outside of work, the text messages and emails are very flirtatious to very sexual in nature, including picture sending. Last night she initiated one of these conversations, but then became offended and told me to stop after I sent a picture. I apologized and told her it would not happen again. This morning my supervisor approched me and told me she has filed a sexual harrasment charge against me. What can I do?

Attorney Answers 1


Illegal Sexual harassment is unwanted contact of a sexual nature in the workplace. It appears that up until you sent a picture outside of work, everything that occurred was wanted by her. You evidently, if not inadvertently crossed a line, but since it was off work site and not during work hours, there could be no workplace sexual harassment. Plus, as co-workers, one text message or photo after work would not be seen as severe or pervasive to be actionable.

Tthe employer has a duty to immediately investigate the complaint. If you can prove the conduct occurred off work site after hours then you would be benefited by doing so and explaining what occurred was invited and not in the workplace, and that you are now cutting off contact. Obviously, this person cannot be trusted and you would be wise to cease and desist from any further contact with her and to document and complain if she contacts you again. Sexual harassment complaints are taken seriously and often badly by the employer so you need to do what you can to protect yourself by documenting exactly what ocurred, how it was consenusal, how it occurred off site, and how it will not happen agains.

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