Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, even when it occurs at a holiday party or company-sponsored retreat. If you have been subjected to harassment outside of work, it takes an experienced employment lawyer to protect your rights.
Castronovo & McKinney, LLC represents victims of workplace harassment throughout New Jersey. Whether you have been harassed at work or after hours at an employer-sponsored event, you may have a legal basis for a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Given the challenges of taking legal action against an employer, it is crucial to have the trustworthy advice and counsel we provide. When you become our client, we will take the time to listen to your concerns and explore all your legal options.
We are highly experienced in handling sexual harassment claims and have a proven history of achieving positive positive outcomes in and out of the courtroom. Contact our Manhattan or Morristown office today to schedule a consultation.
When Sexual Harassment Occurs After Hours at a Holiday Party or Retreat
Sexual harassment, an unlawful form of sex-based discrimination under federal and state law, can occur in a number of ways:
- A supervisor making sexual demands in exchange for an employment benefit (“quid pro quo” harassment)
- Unwelcome comments or conduct by anyone in the workplace (supervisor, coworker, vendor, client) that create an intimidating, offensive, or hostile work environment
- An employer taking an adverse employment action (firing, demoting, disciplining) against an employee who complains about harassment
Unlawful harassment is not limited to the actual workplace, however. Employers can be held liable for harassment that occurs at a holiday party or retreat because the applicable anti-harassment laws apply to offensive conduct that occurs outside of work at company-sponsored events.
Sexual Harassment at Company-Sponsored Events in New Jersey
Employers are required to establish policies and procedures to prevent workplace harassment, and those policies also govern the behavior of employees at company-sponsored events. Examples of harassment at a holiday party or retreat include:
- Inappropriate jokes
- Sexual advances
- Unlawful touching
- Sexist comments
- Role-playing that requires coworkers to physically touch
- Giving sexually suggestive gifts
For example, a supervisor who has too much to drink at the holiday party and makes sexual advances may have committed quid pro quo harassment. Moreover, harassment can also occur when a coworker tells lewd jokes at a retreat, conference, or another event. While a single, offhand remark may not rise to the level of sexual harassment, a pattern of offensive comments at company-sponsored events may constitute a hostile work environment.
Why Sexual Harassment Occurs at Holiday Parties and Retreats
Employer-sponsored holiday parties, retreats, and team-building exercises typically take place away from the office and bring employees into informal settings. While such events are designed to foster camaraderie, they can also create situations that open the door to offensive conduct and comments. Lack of a formal office setting may cause some employees to relax inhibitions and exercise poor judgment, especially if alcohol use is involved.
If harassment occurs at a work-sponsored event, such as a holiday party or a weekend trip at the company’s invitation, an employer may be held liable, depending on the status of the offending employee. Generally, an employer can be held strictly liable for harassment by supervisors, regardless of whether the employer knew about the offensive conduct.
On the other hand, offensive conduct by a non-supervisory employee outside of work may only be actionable if the employer knew, or reasonably should have known about it. In this situation, a skilled sexual harassment attorney will work to demonstrate that there was a pattern of offensive behavior that began in the workplace and continued outside of work.
Pursuing a Claim for Sexual Harassment Outside of the Workplace
If you believe you have been sexually harassed at a holiday party or retreat, you should report the incident to your employer. This will erase any doubt as to whether your employer knew or should have known about the harassment. Making a formal complaint will also serve as valuable evidence to support your claim. That’s where Castronovo & McKinney comes in.
Our legal team will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether you have a valid claim. If so, we will choose the best course of action. While many sexual harassment claims can be resolved through settlement negotiations, we are always prepared to litigate to achieve the best possible outcome.
Above all, we will always work in your best interest and fight to help you obtain just compensation. Depending on the circumstances, you may be awarded damages such as:
- Lost wages (e.g. back pay, front pay)
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Liquidated damages
- Punitive damages
- Attorneys’ fees and court costs
Our firm handles sexual harassment claims on a contingency basis, which means that you will not pay any attorneys’ fees until we recover for you.
Representing Victims of Holiday Party and Retreat Sexual Harassment
No one should put up with sexual harassment inside or outside of the workplace. Trust Castronovo & McKinney, LLC to protect your employment rights and your reputation. Contact us today so we can start working on your claim.