Employees who suffer harassing behavior at a company’s party may sue for sexual harassment. Inappropriate behavior can include offensive statements by co-workers or supervisors.
New York, New York (PRWEB) December 13, 2012
With the holiday season fast approaching, New York civil rights violation lawyer David Perecman advises that companies should be aware of the increasing number of lawsuits involving claims of sexual harassment at holiday office parties.
“Holiday parties are considered an extension of the workplace. This means employees who suffer harassing behavior at a company’s party may sue for sexual harassment. Inappropriate behavior can include offensive statements by co-workers or supervisors,” said Perecman, founder of The Perecman Firm.
Every year brings reported cases of sexual harassment at holiday office parties. This is especially true if there is alcohol at the party or there has been a pattern of inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
In recent news, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York refused to dismiss a [sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the State University of New York. The complaint involved unwanted sexual advances and sexual assaults at a department holiday party. (Shiner v. State University of New York, University at Buffalo, No. 11-CV-01024.)
During the holiday party, an associate dean at the dental school, with supervisory authority over the plaintiff, allegedly made sexual advances toward her that included grabbing her breasts, inserting his tongue in her ear, bending her over a table, and pulling her onto his lap. Another department official with supervisory authority allegedly encouraged him. The plaintiff filed claims of sexual harassment, as well as claims of assault and battery.
“Employers, take note, a single severe episode of harassment may constitute actionable sexual harassment. Employers are automatically liable when supervisors harass subordinates,” said Perecman.
Examples of inappropriate behavior at office parties may include:
- an intoxicated employee admiring a co-worker’s body out loud
- employees pressing their bodies up against co-workers and-or touching them
- supervisors making romantic propositions to subordinates
- risqué gifts, even if they are meant as a joke
According to Perecman, companies should proactively look to prevent harassing behavior by trying to deter such conduct in the first place.
Companies can reduce the risk of sexual harassment claims by:
- Re-publishing the company’s sexual harassment policy before a holiday party.
- Reminding employees that holiday festivities do not offer an excuse for violating policy.
- Reminding supervisors to set a professional example during the party.
- Training managers about expected behavior guidelines and handling complaints.
- Circulating a written policy
- Limiting alcohol consumption during the party
Preventive measures cannot prevent all claims of sexual harassment. They may, however, deter lawsuits and provide a measure of liability protection for a company.
“If an episode of sexual harassment does allegedly occur, employers must take the complaint seriously and follow up with swift and appropriate action,” said Perecman.
Individuals who believe they have been victims of a New York civil rights violation, including sexual harassment or employment discrimination in the workplace can contact The Perecman Firm at 212-977-7033.
About David Perecman and The Perecman Firm, PLLC:
For the past 30 years, the New York civil rights violation, medical malpractice, construction accident, and auto accident lawyers at The Perecman Firm, PLLC have handled all types of cases including harassment and discrimination in New York. David Perecman, founder of the Firm, has been recognized for his achievements as an Honoree in the National Law Journal's Hall of Fame, in New York Magazine's "The Best Lawyers in America" and The New York Times Magazine "New York Super Lawyers, Metro Edition" for the years 2007-2010. The prestigious U.S. News & World Report ranks The Perecman Firm among the top 20 personal injury firms in New York City for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.
The Firm has recovered millions of dollars for its clients. Among the more recent victories, Mr. Perecman won a $15 million verdict** for a construction accident (Index 112370/03) Supreme Court, New York County, a $5.35 million dollar verdict*** for an automobile accident (Index 2749/04) Supreme Court, Kings County, and a $40 million dollar structured settlement for medical malpractice (Index 2146/03)****Supreme Court, Kings County.
The Perecman Firm serves Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, Westchester, Upstate NY, Morris County, and Rockland County.
**later settled while on appeal for $7.940 million
*** later settled for $3.5 million
**** total potential payout
"Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome."