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Sexual Misconduct at Office Holiday Parties

Many companies throughout California and other states will host holiday office parties to celebrate the festive season and another successful year of productivity. Whether this celebration is held within or outside company grounds, the party often consists of a fancy dinner spread, an open bar, and plenty of socializing and even dancing if there is a DJ.

Yet, more and more companies have scaled back on these parties—either by limiting the number of alcoholic beverages each person receives, hosting the party on a workday, or canceling the event altogether. It’s not because they are trying to be more frugal with spending, but rather to avoid being subject to a lawsuit and having to fire an employee or even having an employer resign for alleged sexual misconduct.

This recent trend started after Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was forced out of the film industry in October 2017 after decades worth of accusations about rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment were brought to light by the media. Since then, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement have resulted in an increase in sexual misconduct allegations made by women and men in every field, including the corporate world.

If your company is throwing a holiday party this year, here are some steps to take to avoid being accused of a sex crime:

  • Keep tabs on how much you drink – An open bar invites excessive alcohol consumption and people dropping their guards. Since an office party is often less formal and more social, you may be inclined to act less professional and even be courageous enough to try to become more intimate with a coworker. If you are the type to become more social and/or flirtatious after a few drinks, it’s best to limit how much you drink. Remember, being intoxicated and making a fool out of yourself can cost you your job and potentially your freedom.
  • Watch what you say – If you have the urge to tell your coworker how gorgeous she looks or how nice she smells, take a step back and imagine if your coworker is a male coworker or even your own mother. Would you say the same things now? Resist the desire to make such statements and always be professional.
  • Do not touch – Is shaking someone’s hand fine? Absolutely. But touching, holding, and rubbing any other part of the body is inappropriate. If there is dancing at the party, keep your distance between yourself and those you are dancing with.

If you have been accused of a sex crime at your holsiday party in Santa Rosa or Sonoma County, contact the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. today at (707) 418-5352 and schedule a free case review.