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Sexual Harassment at Holiday Parties

Employment Lawyers Helping Residents of New York City and Surrounding Areas

Toward the end of each year, many offices hold holiday parties. Often, these parties are used for team building or to congratulate an office for a good year. All too often, however, alcohol is served at office parties, and workers as well as supervisors may let their guard down or drink to excess. Too frequently, there is sexual harassment at holiday parties. If you believe that you have been a victim of sexual harassment in this situation, you should consult the New York City sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates.

What Counts as Sexual Harassment at Holiday Parties?

Sexual harassment happens in many different ways at holiday parties. It can include unwanted touching, such as forcible kisses or too much hugging, as well as making sexual comments, playing inappropriate games, groping, or providing suggestive gifts. Both supervisors and employees can perpetrate sexual harassment. Sometimes the perpetrator and the victim are of the same sex.

Employers are supposed to protect workers from sexual harassment in the workplace. An office holiday party — one sponsored by the company — is an extension of the workplace. While sexual harassment often occurs in an excessively macho or boys' club atmosphere, it may be perpetrated by either sex. Either sex may be a victim of it.

For example, if you are an administrative assistant, and your boss gives you condoms and a sex manual as a holiday gift, a jury may find that this is sexual harassment even if your boss claims that it was intended to be a joke. You should let a harasser know that the conduct is unwelcome.

Hostile Work Environment and Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Teasing or a trivial, offhand remark at a holiday party is unlikely to constitute sexual harassment. Instead, holiday party sexual harassment is illegal if an authority figure in the workplace, such as a supervisor, conditions your job on submission to sexual harassment. It also is illegal if a manager, supervisor, coworker, or customer harasses you so frequently or so severely that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. The former is called quid pro quo harassment, while the latter is called hostile work environment harassment.

For example, if your boss asks you for sexual favors at the holiday party in exchange for providing you with a promotion, this would be quid pro quo harassment. On the other hand, if your coworker pushes you into a closet and sexually assaults you, but your boss tells you that it was all in good fun because it was the office party, this would likely be considered severe misconduct that would constitute a hostile work environment.

If you believe that you have been subjected to sexual harassment at a holiday party, you should let the perpetrator of the harassment know that the conduct is unwelcome. You should also follow any grievance procedures in your employment handbook or let HR know right away in writing so that the employer has an opportunity to take corrective action.

If your attorney can establish liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, or the New York City Human Rights Law, you may be able to recover damages. The amount and extent of the damages may be affected by the law that you use to pursue your claim. There are important differences among these laws that make it critical to consult an experienced attorney about your situation as soon as possible.

Discuss Your Potential Case With a Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Sexual harassment at holiday parties can be humiliating and degrading. Sometimes it results in tangible economic harm as well. Contact Phillips & Associates at (833) 529-3476 or through our online form for a free consultation to learn about your options. Our attorneys handle employment litigation in New York City and on Long Island, as well as in Westchester County, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

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