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Who Not to Be at The Office Holiday Party

Workplace Harassment Lawyers Based in New York City

Often, people at a holiday office party say or do things that they would understand would be inappropriate during a workday at the office. Sometimes supervisors or managers give wildly inappropriate holiday gifts to employees. There may be inappropriate touching, groping, or even assault. In other cases, there may be skits or speeches that include improper language related to race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or another protected characteristic. At Phillips & Associates, our experienced New York City workplace harassment attorneys can help you determine whether you have a viable claim for harassment based on actions at a holiday party.

Who not to be at the Office Holiday Party

Marjorie Mesidor, a partner at Phillips & Associates, offers the following three tips for office holiday parties:

  • You do not want to be the drunkest person in the room.
  • You do not want to be the person chasing coworkers and others around to kiss them under the mistletoe.
  • You do not want to be remembered for your inappropriate dance moves or style of dress.

Alcohol often removes inhibitions. Sometimes there is an open bar at a holiday party. People who might understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate when sober and at work may let their guard down at a holiday party. The results can be disastrous for everyone involved.

Similarly, people who understand that touching other people in the workplace is not wise may use mistletoe as an excuse for embarrassing behavior or trying to obtain a kiss. The office holiday party is an extension of the office, and behavior that would not be acceptable within the office is also not acceptable outside the office. At office holiday parties, all those who attend need to remember that the party is an extension of the office, even if the party is at night or at a restaurant or other non-office venue.

What if You Wake up Regretting Your Behavior?

What if you wake up regretting your behavior? Marjorie Mesidor recommends accountability, which means owning up to your own behavior and apologizing to anyone whom you may have offended at the office holiday party.

What if a Coworker Gets Out of Control?

What if a coworker gets out of control at the office holiday party? In the moment, Ms. Mesidor recommends getting yourself to a safe space, objecting to the behavior to let them know that the behavior is not acceptable, and documenting the incident.

Generally, sexually harassing conduct needs to be unwelcome to be actionable. At an office holiday party, a perpetrator of harassment may not fully realize the harm that he or she is causing. Telling the harasser to stop or that you object to his or her behavior sends the message that the behavior is unwelcome. However, it is also important to let a supervisor or HR know that you have been subjected to the unwelcome behavior, using whichever grievance procedure has been set forth in your employment handbook.

You may also want to consult an attorney to determine whether what happened to you was serious enough to pursue a claim for damages under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, or the New York City Human Rights Law. There are important differences among these laws, making it crucial to consult an attorney. For example, before you can file a lawsuit under Title VII, you need to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Title VII only covers employers that have at least 15 workers, whereas with regard to sexual harassment, state law covers all employers, regardless of size.

Often, sexual harassment incidents are he-said, she-said events in which there is no tangible proof of what happened, only the testimony of the victim and the perpetrator. Therefore, it can be very important to document what happened. Documenting what happened can mean texting your account of what happened to a family member immediately after it happens. Documenting what happened can also be useful when the harassment is based on something other than sex, such as race, religion, disability, or another protected personal characteristic.

Consult a New York City Attorney Following Harassment at a Holiday Party

It can be humiliating, degrading, and painful to be sexually or otherwise harassed at your office holiday party. If you believe that you may have been sexually or otherwise harassed at your holiday party, you should contact us for a free consultation. Contact Phillips & Associates at (833) 529-3476 or through our online form. We handle workplace harassment litigation in New York City, Westchester County, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

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