Workplace harassment can take place during normal business hours, but festive events like company Halloween parties can also see instances of harassment. Employees planning to participate might want to be on the alert for bad behaviors, and if targeted, should know their rights. They should also know if those rights have been violated and what steps to take to address the situation.
Not all work parties are the same, but some companies encourage employees to dress up for the holiday and/or serve alcohol. You might see people wearing costumes that seem suggestive, and some employers provide guidelines for this reason. It is also not unusual for someone who is dressed up like a nun or in another outfit that designates a certain religion or culture, which may be offensive and lead to unwelcome comments.
Additionally, employees who imbibe are likelier to make rude and inappropriate sexual, religious, or racial comments. There can be other forms of harassment at these parties as well, especially when employers do not set guidelines and/or allow unlimited alcohol consumption.
Examples of Sexual Harassment at Work Parties
Sexual harassment can occur at any work-related event. There are certain laws in place to protect employees from harassment, whether it happens at work or off-site. In order for the harassment to be against the law, it has to be quid pro quo or significant enough to cause a hostile work environment.
Quid pro quo usually occurs when a supervisor seeks sexual favors from an employee in exchange for a workplace benefit. For example, a male supervisor telling a recent hire that she must have sex with him in order to be assigned the client she wants to manage is quid pro quo harassment.
What Should I Do if I am Harassed at a Workplace Party?
If someone starts harassing you at a workplace party, walk away and join a group of colleagues so you are not alone. Ask if anyone else witnessed what happened, and try to write the details down. Speaking to a supervisor might be warranted if the behavior is offensive enough. Sometimes, single incidences can be quickly resolved with a few discussions, but in other cases, it is best to contact HR.
You can provide a written statement to the representative if they do not ask for one, and many companies now have standard harassment report forms. Laws mandate that businesses investigate harassment complaints, and it is a good idea for you to keep accurate records of how your complaint is handled.
If your employer does not take appropriate action, you have the option of contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Otherwise, the best option is to reach out to an employment lawyer.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Employees Who Have Experienced Harassment at Work Parties
Dealing with workplace harassment can be frightening and infuriating, but there are laws in place to protect you. For legal help, speak with one of our Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Call us at 215-569-1999 or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, and Montgomery County.