Sexual harassment in any workplace is a crime, but what about when it moves beyond the office? This time of year is ripe for holiday office parties, both in the workplace and in remote locations. Is sexual harassment still illegal if the employees are in a remote location?
Holiday office parties are considered an extension of the workplace; therefore, the same rules and laws apply for sexual harassment as in the workplace. Lewd comments, sexual innuendos, offensive comments about sex and sexual advances are all big no-no’s for office parties. They can quickly result in allegations of sexual harassment and a lawsuit against the company. Some examples might be employees pressing their bodies up against others, inappropriate groping on the dance floor, giving risqué gifts as gag gifts or making suggestive remarks to a coworker or insubordinate.
Alcohol has often been one of the biggest culprits in provoking some of the unwanted behavior above. When employees let their hair down away from the office, they may overdrink and become less inhibited — and thus say and do things they would never do in a professional environment. If a company plans to have alcohol at an office party, there are a few things they might consider to help prevent over-indulging:
1. Leave off the hard stuff and serve beer and wine only.
2. If serving mixed cocktails, serve nonalcoholic ones as well. Those who don’t normally drink may prefer the nonalcoholic drinks, where they otherwise might find themselves inebriated quickly from alcohol they are not used to.
3. Do not have an open bar, but instead allow each employee only a couple of free drink tickets, where he or she must purchase his or her own beverages after.
4. Have the party earlier in the day and limit the hours. Perhaps a 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. get-together instead of 9:00 p.m. to midnight or whenever.
Having plenty of food or hors d’oeuvres for employees to munch on will keep people from drinking on an empty stomach. Activities at holiday parties are also very popular. They are a good way to keep people busy and involved. Themes can be casino night, dancing, karaoke or stand-up comedy acts.
Holiday parties are great excitement and motivators for companies, but keeping them in line will keep a company afloat!
Source: Comstock’s, “6 Tips for Avoiding an Office Party Nightmare,” Joan Cusick, Nov. 18, 2015