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Job-Related Holiday Parties, Alcohol, and Sexual Harassment in New Jersey

It is that time of year again. The holidays are upon us. For many working individuals, the holidays will also mean holiday parties held by their employers. While holiday parties can be a fun and festive time, they can also be a source of problems for both employees and employers if an employee, perhaps fueled by an abundance of alcohol, crosses the line and engages in sexual harassment. Unfortunately, holiday party-related sexual harassment happens too often, and, if it happens to you, you should promptly reach out to an experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorney to help you protect your rights.

In many instances, employees are less inhibited at holiday parties than they are in a conventional business setting. Sometimes, this is a result of alcohol. Other times, even without alcohol, the mere presence of the party atmosphere and removal of the office setting influences improper actions. These two factors mean that holiday parties can be, as one New Jersey employment attorney speaking to called them, “a breeding ground for sexual harassment claims.”

There are several ways that employers can be pro-active to reduce the risk of potential cases of sexual harassment at a holiday party. The employer could, for example, eliminate alcohol from the party or could seek to limit consumption. (For example, Huffington Post reported on changes at the Vox Media party in Brooklyn, where that employer decided that it would “ramp up the food and cut down on the drinks.” That new practice included giving each person two drink tickets instead of having an open bar.) The employer could also eliminate practices like “gag gift” exchanges, since some gag gifts could be inappropriate.

Some New Jersey employers reported that they have made no changes, concluding that they’ve already discovered a positive solution. The marketing director for UltraShipTMS, a Fair Lawn-based software company with 25 employees, conducts its holiday party in the wine cellar of an area restaurant, where the employees celebrate with drinks and passed hors d’oeuvres. The marketing director told CBS News that he believed that the party’s formal setting helps the company to avoid incidences of inappropriate conduct.

Other New Jersey employers’ parties have not been as successful. Recently, reported on a woman who filed a lawsuit against a former parking supervisor at the Trenton Airport. The woman was the second female Mercer County employee to accuse the supervisor of sexual harassment. According to the woman who recently filed, the problems began at the employer’s 2015 Christmas party. At the party, the supervisor allegedly asked to touch the woman’s breasts and invited her to join him and another person in a menage a trois. While the supervisor’s alleged actions continued for an extended period of time, the starting point was that holiday party.

If you’ve been a victim of employment-related sexual harassment, even if your harassment didn’t take place at your place of business, you may have a claim for damages. To find out more about your rights and options, talk to the experienced New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have been fighting for workers for many years. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation. Talk to one of our attorneys to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

Third Circuit Rules for New Jersey Custodian Who Was Allegedly Harassed by a Foreman Who Controlled the Custodian’s Work Assignments, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Sept. 6, 2017

Your Employer’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Policies and Your New Jersey Employment Litigation, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Sept. 6, 2017

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