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Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy

Is it employment discrimination if it happens outside the office?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2024 | Employment Law |

Even though employers don’t have the capacity to police employee conduct outside the office, the truth is that employee interactions outside the workplace can impact their work environment. In fact, under certain circumstances, inappropriate employee conduct outside the office may subject an employer to liability.

As the American work landscape continues to evolve, the lines between professional and personal life are becoming increasingly blurred. With the rise of remote work and the increased presence of digital communication tools, the traditional boundaries of the office have expanded beyond physical walls. As an employee, this shift can prompt a critical question: Is it still employment discrimination if unlawful behavior happens outside the office?

The changing dynamics of workplace discrimination

Discrimination can manifest in various forms, extending its reach far beyond the confines of a traditional office setting. From virtual meetings to online collaboration platforms, employees are susceptible to discriminatory practices that transcend physical locations.

For example, virtual spaces, often considered new-age meeting rooms, can become breeding grounds for discrimination. Whether its subtle biases during video conferences or exclusionary practices in virtual collaboration, employees may find themselves facing discriminatory behavior on digital platforms that affects their professional well-being.

Social media’s impact on professional lives

As social media can play a pivotal role in professional networking, it can also influence the trajectory of careers. Employers may inadvertently or intentionally make hiring or firing decisions based on information gleaned from an employee’s online presence, including information about protected characteristics that should not be considered in hiring or employment decisions.

While most employment in the United States is at-will, which means that employers are at liberty to fire their employees for any lawful reason, they cannot fire, retaliate or otherwise discriminate against applicants or employees for reasons that are prohibited by law.

As an employee, it’s critical to identify instances of employment discrimination even if they don’t happen in the office. This way, you can proactively advocate for your rights and seek legal guidance whenever you’re in need of it.