Office Holiday Party Sexual Harassment: A Guide to Squelching It

Every December, tens of thousands of holiday parties in offices across the U.S. generate fun and even jubilant exchanges among coworkers. But the specter of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior at these holiday gatherings lingers. If you are concerned about being harassed or discriminated against at your upcoming workplace holiday party; or if you are a supervisor who wants to nip potential problems in the bud, this article will provide useful tips and resources.

1. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption and the workplace should never mix, unless you run a distillery or wine tasting service. Intoxicated employees, on average, are more likely to make insulting comments to one another, say inappropriate things, or commit more serious offenses like sexual harassment or even sexual assault. To prevent problems, consider serving up “mocktails” at your party or use drink tickets or coupons to limit the amount of drinks any one employee may have.

2. Remind Partygoers of the Rules
To prevent potential troublemakers from wandering across the line from playfully ribald behavior to lawsuit-worthy offenses, gently remind your staff of the consequences of behaving out of control. You need not be a stick in the mud. But emphasize that inappropriate actions will be punished and could cost your business severely.

3. Learn from Past Mistakes
Have you witnessed confrontations or accusations of harassment or misbehavior at past holiday parties? If so, institute policies and procedures to prevent problems from arising again.

4. Remind Employees that Out-of-work Bad Behavior Can Be Punished
A subordinate would never go home and scribble on his Facebook page: “My boss sucks. And I hate everyone in my company.” After all, it is extreme likely that such a negative comment might make its way back to people at the office. Likewise, if you hold your office holiday party at a bar or restaurant or some other outside venue, workers should understand that their conduct there should remain classy and above board.

5. Take All Allegations Seriously
If during or after a holiday party, an employee or a subordinate makes allegations of harassment, misconduct, or other abuse, the company should abide by its legal and moral responsibility to investigate and rectify the situation. If an employee complaint gets ignored or mishandled, the company could get into serious legal hot water.

If you or a coworker or someone in your family has been struggling with workplace sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or retaliation, get a free case evaluation by calling the law firm of Joseph & Kirschenbaum at (212) 688-5640. The firm also provides ample free resources about harassment and discrimination issues at www.jhllp.com.