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How to Avoid Office Party Sexual Harassment

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on December 01, 2010 8:46 AM

Ah, the annual office party.

It's a time to celebrate the end of another successful year with co-workers. The problem? The relaxed atmosphere of an office party combined with alcohol can often be a recipe for sexual harassment.

Avoiding office party sexual harassment complaints is both simple and obvious. At least while sober.

To begin, keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. If creating alcohol-free "mocktails" is not an option, then be aware of the potential for alcohol-induced problems ranging from inappropriate comments to even more inappropriate behavior. Giving out drink tickets (which serves to limit the number of drinks a given employee puts back) is a viable option.

Granted, it's hard to monitor employees off-work conduct. It's especially difficult when the holiday celebration consistently ends up with more drinking at a local bar. The sad reality of this is that legal responsibility does not end when the party does. 

In one case, a supervisor followed a fellow employee to a bathroom and demanded sexual favors. Not only was the supervisor personally responsible for his inappropriate behavior but he also set his company up for a large sexual harassment lawsuit.

Holiday office party sexual harassment issues are also almost always public. Aside from the embarrassment factor, this also means more witnesses to the illegal offenses. Awareness of the increased potential for a problem is crucial. A prompt investigation of any complaints relating to the party is also advisable for any issues stemming from a little too much holiday office cheer.

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