Annual holiday parties are supposed to be a time to relax and socialize with co-workers. Unfortunately, this is not the experience of many people. The relaxed environment, combined with the presence of alcohol, increases the likelihood that a co-worker might act illegally or inappropriately, even veering into the territory of sexual harassment. For non-supervisory employees, conduct at work-sponsored holiday parties can contribute to a hostile work environment, which is a type of New York sexual harassment. This unfortunate experience is mirrored in a lawsuit filed by a former Beacon Hotel employee in New York.
The plaintiff attended her company’s holiday party. During the party, her supervisor, a senior manager, invited her and other employees to a spa to get massages. Her supervisor allegedly flashed his genitals at the plaintiff and other employees, which the plaintiff found offensive. Later, the plaintiff and other employees allegedly went into a hot tub, where her supervisor made advances toward her and fondled her. Each time this happened, the plaintiff allegedly rejected his advances.
When the plaintiff returned to work, she alleges that her senior manager became hypercritical of her work performance and treated her differently from her male co-workers. For instance, the plaintiff was written up when she was 10-15 minutes late, but her supervisor did not do the same for male employees who came to work late. The plaintiff was terminated from employment, even though, prior to the alleged holiday party harassment, she received acceptable to excellent job performance reviews.
The plaintiff’s complaint sets forth four theories of liability. The first and second causes of action are hostile work environment and discrimination claims under the New York City Human Rights Law. The relevant regulatory language provides that it is illegal to discriminate against or discharge from employment a person because of her gender. The third cause of action seeks to hold the supervisor’s employer responsible for creating a hostile work environment that the plaintiff allegedly endured. The New York City regulatory provision provides, in part, that employers may be responsible for the actions of a supervisory employee, especially when the employer was aware of the allegedly discriminatory conduct. Finally, the plaintiff’s complaint asserts aiding and abetting liability against the defendants, as provided under New York City law.
Notably, the plaintiff’s supervisor allegedly acted inappropriately at a function that was not held at their place of work. However, as the plaintiff’s complaint shows, the actions of an allegedly unwanted sexual nature that she experienced may have contributed to a hostile work environment. The plaintiff alleges a connection between her supervisor’s advances, her rejection of those advances, and the adverse employment action taken against her.
If you have experienced behavior that resembles sexual harassment at a holiday party, Phillips & Associates are experienced New York sexual harassment attorneys who have handled numerous sexual harassment cases in New York City. The consultation is no cost, and we do not charge unless we recover compensation on your behalf. Contact us immediately at (212) 248-7431.
More Blog Posts:
Lawsuits by New York City Police Officers, Longshoreman Allege Sexual Harassment by Supervisors, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 18, 2015
Lawsuit Alleges Widespread Sexual Harassment in Tech Company, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 6, 2017
National Park Service Employees Around the Country Allege Sexual Harassment by Supervisors, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 22, 2016