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I was Sexually Harassed at an Office Holiday Party. What Should I do?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited by federal, state, and local law. Laws that protect workers from sexual harassment also reach beyond daily workplace activities to work-related parties or events. The New York sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates can help victims of sexual harassment. If you have been sexually harassed at an office holiday party, contact our office for a free consultation. In the meantime, follow these steps to ensure that you protect your rights.

Understand What Constitutes Sexual Harassment

Inappropriate behavior at holiday parties has the potential of creating a hostile work environment for non-supervisory employees. The types of behavior that may constitute sexual harassment are endless. Some possibilities that may be more likely to occur at holiday parties are:

  • Forcing co-workers to kiss under mistletoe;
  • Giving sexually inappropriate gifts;
  • Making people play games that lead to embarrassing questions or physical contact;
  • Unwelcome physical touching; or
  • Propositioning co-workers for sexual acts

As a general rule, any behavior that would be inappropriate at work may be inappropriate at a holiday party, and could create a hostile work environment. If alcohol is served at the party, it may increase the likelihood that inappropriate actions occur. Although one passing instance may not reach the level of a hostile work environment, a pattern of offenses or one egregious act could. If you are unsure whether you have been sexually harassed, contact an experienced attorney.

Keep Track of All Incidents, Even Outside of Work

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at a holiday party, keep track of each incident, and, if possible, report it to your supervisor or the human resources department. Remember that sexual harassment can occur outside the walls of your office, so just because your office holiday party was held elsewhere, it does not excuse sexually harassing behavior. It is still illegal.

Know the Laws that Protect You

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the primary federal law that protects workers from sexual harassment because it is a form of gender discrimination. To make a claim under this law, you must first report your employer or coworker’s actions to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This agency will investigate your claim, and, if appropriate, issue you a right to sue in federal court.

New York state and New York City also have passed laws that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. These laws offer protection to employees of small businesses with as few as four employees. If you are unsure what laws may protect you, consult a knowledgeable employment discrimination attorney.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

The holidays should be a time to have fun with friends, family, and coworkers. Although most holiday parties pass without a problem, it is unfair and illegal for employees to be sexually harassed at a work event. The New York sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates have experience helping New Yorkers who have been sexually harassed at work or at an office holiday party. If you believe that you are the victim of sexual harassment at a work holiday party, fill out our online contact form or call (212) 248-7431.

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