Relaxing and building relationships with coworkers is a core part of happy hour. That said, 38% of women and 14% of men report experiencing sexual harassment at work. Mixing alcohol with professional life can lead to harmful situations like sexual abuse.
But who is liable if sexual abuse occurs at happy hour with coworkers? D’Amore Law Group regularly answers questions like these for our clients. Our attorneys can help you determine who is liable for your injuries and help you pursue compensation. Contact us today.
How Does the Law Define Sexual Abuse?
Oregon statutes defines sexual abuse as one person subjecting another to unwanted, nonconsensual sexual contact. This type of abuse causes severe harm to victims, so it comes with a harsh punishment depending on the circumstances. Sexual abuse in the third degree carries a misdemeanor charge, while sexual abuse in the first degree comes with a felony charge.
Establishing Sexual Abuse Liability
A victim of sexual abuse can file a civil lawsuit against liable parties. These civil claims can include:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress,
- Negligence, and
- Premises liability.
The types of claims you can file depend on the liable parties and the facts of the matter. In most cases, the victim must show that a liable party owed them a duty of care and breached that duty. This breach led to the sexual abuse that harmed the victim.
Employer Sexual Abuse Liability
Oregon has many laws that address workplace misconduct, including sexual abuse. These laws establish how to determine liability when the abuse occurs at work. Demonstrating a claim of sexual abuse is relatively straightforward because the abuse happened at the office. There, the employer owes a duty of care to its employees and likely breached that duty, leading to the victim’s harm.
Who Is Liable for Sexual Abuse Outside of Work?
Determining liability becomes a little more complicated at work-related events like happy hour. Sometimes, your employer coordinates these events. Other times, they might be impromptu get-togethers with coworkers. Either way, employees often expect to be in a more relaxed, informal setting at happy hour. Even when happy hour happens at a bar or restaurant, employers and other parties can bear liability for sexual abuse during happy hour with coworkers.
Anyone who commits the abuse is liable for the harm they cause. The abuser may be a stranger at the bar or another coworker. In some cases, an employee of the establishment might commit an abusive act. In any of these situations, the victim can file a civil claim against the abuser.
That being said, other parties can share liability for sexual abuse. This is especially true if they put the victim in a dangerous situation that led to the harm.
Employers can be liable for sexual abuse occurring off-site during company-sponsored happy hours. These events are often considered an extension of the workplace. Liability may arise if the employer organized, encouraged, or benefited from the gathering and the abuse is linked to work-related matters. In cases of coworker sexual abuse at happy hour, the company can be liable for their employee’s actions.
The Bar or Restaurant
Bars and restaurants hosting happy hour events may be held liable for incidents of sexual abuse that occur on their property. Liability typically arises when the establishment is aware or should be aware of a dangerous situation and fails to provide a safe environment during the event.
Some key factors that can affect liability include:
- Negligent security. Establishments should have adequate security measures to prevent or respond to harassment incidents. A bar that fails to protect its patrons can be liable for any resulting harm.
- Over serving alcohol. Providing a patron with too much alcohol can put the patron and others at risk. Bars and restaurants must adhere to state laws regulating the sale and service of alcohol.
- Failure to address complaints. If the establishment is aware of harassment complaints, it should take appropriate action to address them. The establishment may be liable if it ignores these complaints, which leads to harm.
In some circumstances, the establishment may also be liable if an employee commits the abuse.
What Damages Can a Victim Recover?
A victim of sexual abuse can file civil claims to recover damages to compensate them for their harm. The damages available depend on the types of claims available and the circumstances surrounding the harm.
The most common damages victims seek in sexual abuse claims include:
- Medical expenses. Victims can recover the cost of medical treatment, therapy, and counseling required to address physical and emotional injuries resulting from the abuse.
- Lost wages. If the abuse has led to the victim missing work, they can seek compensation for lost income and potential future earning capacity.
- Pain and suffering. Victims can recover damages for the physical and emotional pain, distress, and mental anguish they endured due to the abuse.
Sometimes, an abuser’s conduct is so egregious that the court will award punitive damages to the plaintiff. These additional damages are meant to punish the abuser and deter similar behavior in the future.
When to Work with An Attorney
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, you should speak with an attorney about your situation. This process can be stressful, especially when managing life after abuse.
Filing sexual abuse claims is not easy, and your attorney will help you determine the best way to proceed with your case. They can assess the strength of your case and help determine which parties bear responsibility.
Your attorney will also assist in collecting and preserving evidence, which is crucial in building a strong case. This may include medical records, witness statements, and other relevant documentation. Evidence will help your attorney determine who is liable if sexual abuse occurs at happy hour with coworkers.
Once liability is clear, your attorney can file a lawsuit and begin negotiations with the responsible parties or their insurers. The goal of these negotiations is to reach a settlement with the liable parties. This settlement will compensate you for the harm caused by the sexual abuse.
Sometimes, the other side will not want to settle your claim. Your attorney will continue the lawsuit and take it to trial if necessary. Once your claim goes to court, your lawyer will present your case and argue on your behalf. They will show all the evidence to the judge or jury and show why the defendant is liable for your injuries.
Get a Free Case Evaluation
Managing the aftermath of sexual abuse can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. Speak with the D’Amore Law Group to see if you can receive compensation for your claim. Our law firm fights hard for our clients and has recovered millions of dollars for plaintiffs. Contact us now to speak with an attorney about your case.