You can’t ignore it. Every day it seems a new story is breaking involving allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are – or should be – thinking of ways to be proactive to ensure sexual harassment doesn’t occur in their offices.
But what about the company holiday party? What liability does an employer have for the off-site, after-hours conduct of its employees? And what can employers do to limit that liability?
Importantly, the law does not limit employer liability for sexual harassment to that conduct that occurs within the confines of the office. And, numerous published decisions from Michigan and federal courts include allegations of improper behavior that occurred at a company holiday party, off-site dinner, or via social media.
In general, sexual harassment occurs when an individual is subjected to unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that creates a hostile work environment. It is undisputed – a hostile work environment can be created by off-duty and off-premises conduct.
As such, we frequently caution our clients to reinforce the application of the company’s code of conduct, dress code and other workplace anti-harassment rules prior to off-site events. Other practical steps that may limit the occurrences of inappropriate conduct and company liability:
• Host parties during the day and don’t sponsor any “after hours” continuation of the celebration.
• Limit alcohol consumption – don’t have an “open bar” for an excessive period of time.
• Offer to pay for car services and gently suggest to any individual that appears under the influence to leave the party before an incident arises.
• Remind management about their obligation to prevent harassment and advise that it is their responsibility to immediately address any inappropriate touching and/or conversations that would not be permitted in the workplace.
• Ensure accountability from the top down. Don’t allow the “superstar” performer to get away with something that would result in disciplinary action for a lower-level or less-producing employee.
• If allegations are made about conduct at the party, immediately launch a thorough investigation.
Knowledge and training are critical to preventing liability and ensuring that all employees can enjoy the holiday party and start 2018 on a positive and productive note.
A member of the firm's Bloomfield Hills office, Courtney L. Nichols serves as Co-Leader of Plunkett Cooney's Labor and Employment Law Practice Group.
Ms. Nichols focuses her litigation practice in the area of employment law ...
Add a comment
SubscribeRSS Plunkett Cooney LinkedIn Page Plunkett Cooney Twitter Page Plunkett Cooney Facebook Page
- Employment Liability
- Wage & Hour
- Department of Labor (DOL)
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Labor Law
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- National Labor Relations Act
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Minimum Wage
- Human Resources
- Employment Discrimination
- Business Risk Management
- Title VII
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Sick Leave
- Employment Agreement
- Paid Medical Leave Act (PMLA)
- National Labor Relations Board
- Transgender Issues
- Whistleblower Protection Act
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
- Class Actions
- Workplace Harassment
- Hostile Work Environment
- Department of Education (DOE)
- Title IX
- Tax Law
- Medical Marijuana
- Right to Work
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Union Organizing & Relations
- Coordinating Employee Leaves of Absence
- Department of Labor Publishes Final 'Joint Employer' Regulation
- Practical Advice for Creating Effective Managers
- Non-Discretionary Bonuses Affect Overtime Pay, Other Wage Issues
- Michigan Supreme Court Decides not to Issue Advisory Opinion on Constitutionality of the PMLA
- Employers Should act Despite Supreme Court ‘Adopt and Amend’ Cliff Hanger
- Appellate Court Scores Employee’s FMLA Abuse Claim as Below Par
- What Should Michigan Employers do now That Recreational Marijuana Is Legal?
- Lessons Learned – Part Three – The Oral Contract
- Lessons Learned – Part Two – Punitive Damages