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Holiday Parties and Sexually Suggestive Gifts

New York City Lawyers for Victims of Harassment in the Workplace

Employers like to use holiday parties to boost morale among employees or build their team for the benefit of work. Some people do not realize that a holiday party is a work event, subject to the same rules as ordinary work shifts. The lively atmosphere and alcohol may make some supervisors and managers feel that they can get away with giving sexually suggestive gifts. Sometimes employers hold these parties in inappropriate places, and this only compounds the problems associated with giving a particular gift. At Phillips & Associates, our New York City sexual harassment attorneys understand how degraded you may feel if you receive a sexually suggestive gift at a holiday party for your company, and we can provide compassionate but aggressive legal representation.

Bringing a Claim Based on Sexually Suggestive Gifts

Sexually suggestive gifts may qualify as actionable sexual harassment. In many cases, it may depend on how suggestive the gift is. A box of chocolates wrapped in red wrapping might have a romantic tone, but it may or may not be seen as sexual harassment. On the other hand, lingerie, sex toys, edible underwear, and other explicitly sexual gifts are likely to be seen as sexual harassment.

Federal, state, and local laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are not usually responsible for sexual harassment that occurs away from the workplace while off-duty, but even though a holiday party may be located away from the office or held at night, it is sponsored by the employer. It is an extension of the workplace and subject to the same laws.

Title VII is the federal law that prohibits harassment based on sex. It applies to state and federal employees, as well as private employers with at least 15 employees. Under Title VII, simple teasing or isolated incidents that are not extremely serious do not count as sexual harassment. Instead, the sexually suggestive gift must be so objectively offensive that it changes the victim's employment conditions.

Employment conditions are considered changed under Title VII if the harassment results in a concrete employment decision, or it is so egregious or pervasive that it generates a hostile work environment. The head of a company giving an assistant a dildo, for example, would likely meet this standard.

Moreover, New York law protects workers against sexual harassment more comprehensively and applies to employers regardless of size. Although the New York Human Rights Law usually applies to employers with a minimum of four employees, sexual harassment is considered so serious that it is prohibited in all workplaces. In New York, sexual harassment may include giving sexually suggestive gifts when this is either explicitly or implicitly a term of employment, when submitting to the conduct is a basis for your employer's decisions about your employment, or when it has the effect or purpose of unreasonably interfering with an employee's work performance or creating a hostile work environment. Even people who are not intended targets of sexual harassment may be able to bring a claim if an intimidating or hostile work environment has been generated by a sexually suggestive gift.

Hire a Sexual Harassment Attorney in New York City

If you received a sexually suggestive gift at a holiday party that has interfered with your work and caused you distress, you should consult a New York City sexual harassment lawyer. At Phillips & Associates, we are dedicated to seeing justice served in our clients' cases. In your workplace, you want to be seen as valuable for your professional abilities, and it is demeaning to receive a sexually suggestive gift. Call us at (833) 529-3476 or use our online form to set up a free appointment with a sexual harassment or gender discrimination lawyer. We serve employees in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, Westchester, as well as in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.

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