After another year of success amidst global adversity, a workplace holiday party can be a great way to bring together coworkers to celebrate and be together in a relaxed environment. While these gatherings should be and can be positive experiences for all, it’s not uncommon for sexual harassment to occur.
Holiday parties need not be large gatherings. Even during these pandemic times, many organizations may organize smaller, team gatherings. Regardless of the size of the event, a holiday party is a work function which means the same rules that apply to how you treat your colleagues in the workplace apply to the function.
Examples of Sexual Harassment at a Work Party
In many cases, these office holiday parties involve alcohol and a carefree atmosphere. People feel more at ease and may lose inhibitions that are present in the workplace, or they may believe ‘rules don’t apply’ outside of the workplace. However, even though alcohol might be served, it does not give anyone the right or permission to make inappropriate or sexual comments or physical advances.
One or two inappropriate comments may seem harmless enough but they can lead to more serious and illegal situations. When harassment becomes so frequent or severe it creates a hostile work environment it can result in claims against the employer. Additionally, a victim can file a claim if harassment results in the victim being wrongfully terminated or demoted.
Examples of sexual harrasment at a work party include:
- Giving a sexually suggestive gift as a ‘Secret Santa’
- Making sexually inappropriate jokes or comments about another coworker’s body or sexual orientation
- Grabbing a coworker’s body while dancing
- Sharing sexually inappropriate images
- Propositioning a co-worker for sex
- Unwanted sexual advances from a non-employee contractor, who was also invited to the gathering
In other examples, a supervisor pull the employee into a sexually suggestive embrace or even may proposition the employee for sex. When an employee feels as though they must endure sexual harassment or agree to the sexual advances in order to receive a benefit, like a promotion, salary increase or even placement on the ‘good team,’ that qualifies as quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Can I Sue for Sexual Harassment at an Office Holiday Party?
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, you should report it to your employer as soon as possible. Try to gather evidence, as best you can, but it's important to report the incident regardless of how much evidence you believe you have.
Your employer should thoroughly investigate your complaint. The employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. Additionally, like the example of the non-employee contractor, the employer will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control (e.g., independent contractors or customers on the premises).
After reporting the harassment, your employer should then take prompt and appropriate corrective action. If harassment does not stop or if you are suffering retaliation from reporting workplace harassment, an employment attorney may be able to help. Employment attorneys focus on protecting you from discrimination, sexual harassment, wage violations, and more.
Lawyer for Sexual Harassment at Work Holiday Party
At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we provide comprehensive, focused representation for employment law clients throughout New Jersey. Our award-winning attorneys bring together knowledge and insight to construct a strong case for our clients and maximize any future settlements. Thanks to our teamwork and extensive familiarity with both state and federal employment laws, we can take on essentially any employment law case.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law can help you restore your safety without damaging your reputation. Get your life back and contact us for a free consultation.