group of men and women at a bar holding wine, beer, and cocktails holiday party sexual harassment

Sexual harassment happens too frequently during holiday parties and company retreats. Many New York City employers host work events to promote team building and continuing education. Unfortunately, when supervisors and co-workers let their guards down or drink too much alcohol, sexual harassment of other employees might take place. Employees should be able to enjoy work functions without the fear of being sexually harassed by a supervisor, vendor, co-worker, or client.

If you have been a victim of sexual harassment in New York City, you might be entitled to compensation. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we have over 40 years of experience in employment law. Our attorneys aggressively represent our clients in sexual harassment employment issues. Contact our law firm today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help fight for your rights.

Examples of Sexual Harassment at Holiday Parties and Company Retreats

Sexual harassment includes any inappropriate words or sexual gestures that create an intimidating, offensive, or hostile environment. Sexual harassment is not limited to the inside of a company’s office building. Instead, employers and co-workers can engage in unlawful sexual harassment outside of their company’s building. The legal protections against sexual harassment extend outside of the workplace to events sponsored by the company.

Holiday parties often involve complimentary alcohol for attendees. Employees and supervisors regularly consume excessive alcohol, lowering their inhibitions, and making them more likely to engage in unwanted sexual contact. The festive atmosphere of parties can also influence people to act less professionally than they usually act while at the workplace. Any number of situations can arise at corporate-sponsored events that can rise to the level of sexual harassment. Examples of sexual harassment at corporate-sponsored events include the following circumstances:

  • An employee touches another employee in an unwanted way at a holiday party
  • Sexual self-touching in front of others while in the elevator at a company retreat
  • Making inappropriate sexual gestures to another employee during a holiday party
  • Displaying sexually explicit images to a co-worker during a break at a work conference
  • A manager makes sexually inappropriate jokes in a speech at the company holiday party
  • A supervisor makes repeated sexual advances while walking to or from the conference
  • An employee uses sexual language during a toast at the company Christmas party
  • An employer provides sexually explicit gifts for the company gift exchange

Joking Can Constitute Unlawful Sexual Harassment at Corporate Events

Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace, including at holiday parties and company retreats. When facing sexual harassment claims, supervisors sometimes argue that they were only joking. For example, a supervisor might have purchased a sex manual or another sexually explicit holiday gift for his administrative assistant. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, our attorneys are skilled at proving that the defendant engaged in unwelcome sexual harassment that goes beyond mere joking.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment at Holiday Parties

In some instances, an employee may feel as though he or she must go along with sexual harassment or suffer an adverse employment consequence. For example, a supervisor might corner an employee at a holiday party and tell the employee that he will fire her if she does not engage in sexual favors. In another example, a supervisor could push an employee into a closet, sexually assault the employee, and tell him that if he reports the assault, he will not receive a promotion.

Creating a Hostile Work Environment at Company Retreats

Creating a hostile work environment is another type of unlawful harassment. Supervisors create a hostile work environment when he or she creates an environment that negatively interferes with job performance. A hostile work environment would make any employee want to quit the job. Supervisors, customers, owners, and anyone else in the workplace can create a hostile work environment. Additionally, a company can create a hostile work environment at company retreats as they are corporate events sponsored by the company.

An offhand remark at a holiday party that is sexual charged will likely not rise to the level of sexual harassment. However, if a manager has a reputation for repeatedly making unwanted sexual jokes during toasts during company retreats, his or her behavior could rise to the level of sexual harassment. If you are unsure whether your employer’s conduct at work functions rises to the level of sexual harassment, the attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP can advise you as to your best course of action.

Filing Sexual Harassment Claims in New York City

If you have been threatened not to report sexual harassment by a supervisor, co-worker, or manager, you may have a viable legal claim against your employer. If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment at a holiday party, the attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP can advise you as to your best legal options.

We can assist you in filing a claim with your human resources department as soon as possible in writing. Companies typically have their unique procedures for filing sexual harassment grievances found in their employee handbooks. Depending on the facts of your case, you may have a right to file a claim under the following laws:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • The New York State Human Rights Law
  • The New York City Human Rights Law

Successful sexual harassment claimants are entitled to damages, to include:

Lost wages, including lost back pay and front pay
Lost employment benefits, including retirement benefits
Damages for emotional distress
Compensation for attorneys fees and costs

Contact Our New York City Sexual Harassment Lawyers

If you’ve experienced sexual harassment at a holiday party or company retreat, our attorneys are ready to fight on your behalf. After reviewing the facts of your case, we can help you determine the best way to proceed with your claim. You may need to file a lawsuit or attempt to negotiate a confidential settlement. Time is of the essence when it comes to filing a claim for sexual harassment. Contact our New York City employment law firm today to learn how we can help you.