What is considered harassment of a co-worker?

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What is considered harassment of a co-worker?

I managed a female employee and I know where she lives, because she had moved to the same city as me, she lives in a single house and on a public street. One day when I past by her house and I saw a sign that says, “be aware of dog”, so I asked her the next day what kind of dog does she have. A day later, she told the HR that I harassed her, and the HR told me do not pass by her street anymore, even though it is a public street. Is that legal what the HR was asking me to do? They also asked me why I have to use that street and where I was going? What about my piracy and constitutional rights?

Asked on July 12, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all, your constitutional rights do not apply in the context of private employment--that is, the constitution does not apply to private companies.

Second, probably what you did would *not* be harassment, unless there is some other context or "backstory" here that you have not explained (e.g. has she previously told you that she wants nothing to do with you other than the minimum interaction required by work? have you expressed interest in her and been rebuffed? etc.). Without something else, a question about someone's dog, prompted by a sign visible from the public street, would not seem to be either sexual harassment or stalking, etc. Therefore, it would seem that you would not face criminal or civil liability.

Third, going back to the 1st point above: your employer can put restrictions on you which seem unfair, and if you don't honor them, they can fire you, unless you have an employment contract to the contrary. That means that they can ask you to not pass by a certain street, and if you violate that request, they could fire you, regardless of whether what you did would be illegal or not. Companies may be more restrictive than the law generally.


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