Avoiding Sexual Harassment at the Office Holiday Party

Most employees look at the holiday office party as a time to loosen up and socialize with their coworkers and spouses. While a holiday party can be a fun time for both employees and employers, the evening’s festivities are often fraught with potential pitfalls that can lead to a sexual harassment lawsuit. There are a number of rules to keep in mind when attending a office holiday party, including the following:


Watch How Much You Drink- It seems fairly self-explanatory, but it might be the single hardest rule to abide by. Many companies supply employees with an open bar, meaning an unlimited amount of free alcohol, a tempting proposition in almost any environment. Unlimited alcohol means the loosening of inhibitions and the expulsion of any workplace tensions.

Nobody wants to go to work following a holiday party and find that they’ve had a sexual harassment complaint brought up against them for things they don’t even remember saying. The best way to prevent over-indulgence is to skip out on the open bar and instead have a no-host bar; meaning employees are responsible for buying their own drinks. If you do happen to encounter an open bar, limit yourself to two drinks before switching over to something like a cranberry and soda, thereby escaping peer pressure.

Managers, Remember Your Position- It’s vital for those in positions of power to remember that the holiday party is an extension of the workplace, making it necessary to avoid comments that would be out of place in the workplace. To this end, it’s best to avoid conversations regarding promotions or pay with your employees. It would be difficult to extricate yourself from a situation in which you make half-hearted promises to an employee due to being a bit intoxicated.

Employers most certainly shouldn’t engage in any type of behavior that might be deemed inappropriate, such as a case in Orange County where an advertising agency manager dressed up as Santa Claus and had female employees sit on his lap as he asked them personal questions. The situation resulted in a sexual harassment claim, a fate your company should try to avoid.

Mistletoe Is A No No- Hanging mistletoe at a party is practically an invite for a sexual harassment complaint. In addition to the fact that two employees kissing under the mistletoe could be cause for discomfort for some employees, a manager standing under the mistletoe could be a huge cause for concern?

It’s entirely possible that if a manager invites a kiss under the mistletoe the employee in demand will consider the ramifications of rejecting the manager. This places undue pressure on an employee and creates a textbook sexual harassment scenario in which an employee worries about their terms of employment if rejecting the sexual advances of a superior. A simple word of advice, skip the mistletoe.


All of these warnings shouldn’t dissuade any employers from hosting an office party, nor does it mean that employees aren’t allowed to have fun. Holiday parties can be a great company morale booster when done right. The most important thing to keep in mind is that, regardless of the setting, an office party is still an extension of the workplace. Basically, what this means is that you shouldn’t do anything at the party that you wouldn’t do in the office.

If you’re an employer or employee on the wrong side of a few inebriated decisions it’s possible you may need the help of a sexual harassment lawyer in Orange County. A sexual harassment lawyer in Orange County will review the accusations against you and help you navigate your legal possibilities. The team at Diefer Law Group is well equipped to handle any potential cases that may arise from a holiday party. As long as you keep in mind the outlined tips, you shouldn’t worry about a holiday party ruining your holiday cheer.

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