Holiday Parties and Discriminatory Remarks
In many workplaces, end-of-the-year holiday parties are viewed as a place for coworkers and supervisors to relax and celebrate. Unfortunately, the atmosphere and the consumption of alcohol at a party may result in hurtful and even discriminatory remarks. Although it may seem informal, a holiday party associated with your job is an extension of the workplace, and employers may be held liable for discriminatory remarks made there. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City employment discrimination attorneys understand how significant the consequences may be for speaking out about workplace misconduct. We can guide you through the process of bringing a claim if you have been a victim of discrimination.Holiday Parties and Discriminatory Remarks
Depending on the precautions taken by the employer, an employee attending a holiday work function may feel comfortable making discriminatory remarks based on a coworker or other employee's race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Moreover, an employer or supervisor may also drink too much or feel emboldened to make discriminatory remarks. They may not realize that an employer may be responsible for discrimination even after-hours or at another venue. Sometimes you may go home from a holiday party feeling threatened or offended.
Your employer may be liable for discriminatory remarks made at a company holiday party even if the party is held at another location, after-hours, or on the weekend. Federal, state, and local laws prohibit discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, religion, and gender. Title VII prohibits discrimination and harassment based on these and other protected characteristics. State and local laws may provide more expansive protections. For example, courts reviewing race discrimination claims brought under the New York City Human Rights Law do so with more deference to plaintiffs than they do with claims brought under Title VII.
Generally, a single remark is unlikely to rise to the level of discrimination or harassment under Title VII unless it is truly egregious or has long-lasting consequences. For example, an off-color joke made once by a coworker while drinking spiked punch might not rise to the level of actionable discrimination. However, a white supervisor using racial slurs against black subordinates repeatedly at a holiday party and doing a planned skit involving a noose would probably be found to have engaged in egregious conduct. The event would be particularly striking if a manager with authority over the supervisor was present but either did nothing or threatened black subordinates with demotions if they reported the misconduct.
Employers may be vicariously liable for unlawful harassment by supervisors at a holiday party. They are always responsible for a supervisor's harassment if it results in a tangible employment action.Retain an Experienced Employment Discrimination Attorney in New York City
If you have suffered from discriminatory behavior at a holiday party, you should consult an experienced New York City employment discrimination lawyer. At Phillips & Associates, we are dedicated to seeing justice served in our clients' cases. We understand how humiliating and isolating it may be when you are subjected to remarks about your race, sexual orientation, religion, or gender on an occasion that is supposed to be relaxing and festive. Call us at (212) 248-7431 or contact us through our online form to set up a free consultation. We serve people who need an employment discrimination or sexual harassment attorney throughout Staten Island, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, Westchester, as well as in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.
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