Avoiding Sexual Harassment at the Company Holiday Party

by Adam Horowitz

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The traditional end of year holiday party at most companies is an event employees looking forward to as a way to celebrate the successes of the past year in an informal setting with colleagues. It is commonplace for gossip-worth activities to take place at company holiday parties. Most of these incidents are funny and at worst a bit embarrassing. Unfortunately, these parties are also the scene of countless incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault which can result in civil or criminal legal action. More than 80 percent of the women surveyed in a recent study reported that a co-worked made unwanted sexual advances toward them at a holiday gathering. 86 percent reported being surprised by the sexual advance and more than 60 percent reported that a supervisor was the one making the advance.

The holiday party is an extension of the workplace, and therefore, activities such as sexual harassment, which are prohibited in the workplace, are equally impressible at the holiday party. In order to constitute sexual harassment, the conduct of the harasser must generally be either severe or pervasive (or both). At a holiday party, the most common situation we hear about is a severe single incident of sexual harassment or sexual battery on the night of the party. But it is also possible that statements or actions at the party could be an escalation of a larger, more pervasive pattern of sexual harassment.  

The combination of alcohol and an informal setting in which employees of all levels have an opportunity to interact in an informal manner they do not have the rest of the year can be a dangerous combination. These circumstances can embolden individuals to take action or make statement that reflect and confirm more subtle actions they have taken in the past.

To help prevent legal problems, it is best for management to have a plan in place to limit alcohol consumption and to remind all employees that all office policies are still in place, even outside the workplace.  

Our attorneys are experienced in handling lawsuits involving sexual harassment and sexual battery in the workplace, including incidents at holiday parties. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual harassment or sexual battery in the workplace, please, contact our law firm at 855-700-PATH or send an e-mail to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected]. Farmer Jaffe Weissing handles sexual battery cases nationwide.

 

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