Job-related sexual harassment can happen in any workplace and even when employees are off the clock. In fact, company holiday parties are a well-known setting for such unwelcome encounters. Perhaps the casual vibe and the presence of alcohol influence the presumptuous behavior, but it does not change its impact on the victim and may still cause a huge problem for the employer if they fail to address it appropriately.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is any behavior that subjects a person to unwelcome attention of a sexual nature that makes them feel uncomfortable or compromised. The behavior may or may not include unwanted physical contact. When the behavior involves remarks about the victim’s appearance, the aggressor may contend that they are just teasing or being friendly. However, the discomfort of the victim is the best indication that the behavior is inappropriate. Additionally, the power dynamic between the victim and the perpetrator also plays a role. Often the subject of the harassment will be reluctant to react negatively to the situation if they believe their reputation or their job will be affected.
What Is a Company’s Responsibility Concerning Sexual Harassment?
Employers are required by law to protect their employees from unfair or discriminatory treatment. This is part of their responsibility to provide a safe working environment. Another part of the company’s duty to their employees is to take their complaints seriously by investigate allegations and take steps to address and eliminate the unwelcome behavior. Along with these efforts, companies must get out ahead of the issue by instituting policies against sexual harassment, and other types of discriminatory treatment, and making all employees aware of the rules as well as processes for reporting infractions.
What Can Employers Do to Prevent Sexual Harassment at a Holiday Party?
Employers should have a policy in place discouraging inappropriate sexualized behaviors and unwelcome interactions between employees. Furthermore, they should ensure that all employees are aware of the policy, including ways to report harassment they may experience.
Although these policies are important for everyday interactions at work, preparations for events such as a company holiday party should involve a review of the policy and a reminder that it applies to work-related social gatherings as well.
What Should Be Done if an Employee Alleges Sexual Harassment at a Holiday Party?
An employee who becomes the victim of sexual harassment at a holiday party should be able to notify their employer of the interaction without fear that their report will cause them to suffer any retaliatory action. They should also be confident that the report will stay confidential. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
A clear policy and the unambiguous support of management will go a long way to making sexual harassment victims more comfortable reporting the damaging treatment they have received.
The employer not only must create and stand by a company policy, but also must follow through on complaints to ensure that the process is seen as a legitimate effort on the part of the company to investigate and address the claims.
Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Burnham Douglass Represent Workers with Complaints of Sexual Harassment
If you were sexually harassed at work, you have legal rights to seek redress for the damages caused by the bullying or discriminatory treatment. Your employer is responsible for providing a safe work environment. If your employer fails in this duty, you may have recourse to sue. The Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Burnham Douglass can help you understand your rights as an employee and seek fair compensation for the treatment you endured. Contact us online or call us at 856-751-5505 for a free consultation. We are located in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, and Mercer County.