Fall has begun and with it comes holiday parties for Halloween, gatherings for Thanksgiving and spectacular events in honor of Christmas and the New Year. While everyone is expected to be on their best behavior to celebrate the holidays, not everyone behaves appropriately.
Inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment, can occur at anytime, even at an after hour event or off-site work activity. If you or a loved one has been a survivor of sexual harassment at office holiday event or you simply want to educate yourself to be prepared in case of having an unsavory interaction, continue reading.
What is Sexual Harassment?
“Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” state Orange County sexual harassment lawyers from Aegis Law Firm, “This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser.”
Depending on the frequency and severity, sexual harassment can cross the line from being a civil law infraction to a legal crime.
Examples of Sexual Harassment at Office Holiday Party
Sexual harassment can take many forms and appear differently. Sexual harassment at office holiday season may appear in the following ways:
- Forcing co-workers to kiss under mistletoe
- Unwanted and unwelcome touching, kissing or comments when greeting or saying goodbye
- Dancing that gets “too physical”
- Giving sexually inappropriate gifts
- Drawings or displayed artwork that is sexual in nature or has sexual undertones
- Propositioning co-workers for sexual acts
- Making people play games that lead to embarrassing questions or physical contact
- Inappropriate or sexual remarks about an employee’s appearance
Sexual harassment can and does occur outside the walls of the office: it is still illegal. Events where alcohol is served or present can increase the likelihood of inappropriate behavior. Any conduct that is not appropriate for the workplace is inappropriate for a work event as well.
While a single, serious incident at a holiday party may by itself be considered sexual harassment, what is typically more common is that the inappropriate action is part of a pattern of misconduct that has occurred over time. In this case, the pattern of misconduct may demonstrate that a hostile work environment exists.
What Do I Do If I Was a Survivor of Sexual Harassment at a Holiday Party?
After a sexual harassment situation, the next steps can feel overwhelming and confusing. The seconds, minutes and days after a sexual harassment incident can be crucial in protecting your legal rights.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at office holiday party, keep track of each and every incident. Report it to your supervisor or the human resources department as soon as possible. Take photos, videos, write down what happened and keep a journal to document the emotions and feelings in the days following the incident.
Consider consulting with an experienced employment lawyer to explore your legal options. Even if you do not retain an attorney, a legal professional can inform you of next steps and guide you in the right direction. If you choose to hire an employment law firm, they can help build your case to help protect your rights and hold your place of employment accountable.
Keeping Holiday Office Events Holly, Jolly and Appropriate
Businesses have a duty to make holiday office events feel safe and empower employees to report any incidents. By understanding what sexual harassment is and what examples of sexual harrassment at office holiday events and activities looks like, you and your loved ones can protect your legal rights and combat a hostile work environment. Corporate holiday events should be a space for unity and shared happiness, free from any form of harassment.