What a New York Employer Should Consider When it Comes to Sexual Harassment and the Workplace ‘Drinking Culture’

The tidal wave of news stories that has emerged in the aftermath of the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal has caused many to take a fresh look at sexual harassment in the workplace and the pervasiveness of the problem. No matter how extensive the problem is, any number of instances is too many. No one should suffer through sexual harassment simply as they try to pursue their career, which is why laws exist to protect those victimized. If you’ve been sexually harassed at work, you should not suffer in silence but instead should take action to protect your rights, including contacting a New York sexual harassment attorney to discuss your options.

With all this in mind, employers should be more vigilant than ever when it comes to sexual harassment. Author Patrick Krill, a behavioral health consulting firm focused exclusively on the legal industry, recently opined in a piece published at law.com about one important area when it comes to reducing sexual harassment, which is alcohol and the workplace.

While there are many reasons why sexual harassment occurs, some varieties of harassment take place because the harasser’s inhibitions are lowered by alcohol. In some professions, and the legal profession is an example, alcohol is a part of the business culture. The drinking culture is, as the author stated, “the way it’s always been in the legal profession.”

However, just because a certain way of doing things is “the way it’s always been” may no longer be good enough. As Krill points out in his article, multiple newer studies have concluded “that workplace sexual harassment increases when alcohol is involved.” Specifically, Cornell University found a link between alcohol use and the type of sexual harassment that involves “offensive or degrading remarks and actions, usually directed at women by men.” This is not surprising because alcohol often lowers inhibitions, and lowered inhibitions may lead a person to make a potentially harassing comment that he otherwise might, if sober, refrain from voicing.

As Krill opines in his piece, legal employers have encouraged or allowed a “drinking culture” in their workplaces because they presumably theorized that the positives of that drinking culture (including team-building and networking) exceeded the negatives. However, with the results of emerging research, that theory may potentially no longer hold up. Many employers, including legal employers, seek to protect themselves from liability by creating carefully crafted policies intended to prevent sexual harassment. However, another of the findings the Cornell researchers made, according to Krill, was that “sexual harassment prevention policies may be less effective in work contexts characterized by a strong and permissive drinking culture.”

All of this new research, along with the ongoing stream of sexual harassment news stories, points to the need for all employers, including legal ones, to, as Krill puts it, ask “themselves some difficult and sobering” questions. While legal employers have, in the past, encouraged a lifestyle among employees to “work hard, play hard,” they must – as all employers should – analyze whether their practices and workplace cultures are optimized to protect the well-being of all of their employees and, if they fail to do so, the potential responsibility they have for the harassment that might follow.

Depending on the circumstances, the law says that your employer may be liable to you if you’ve suffered from workplace sexual harassment, if your harasser was a supervisor or potentially even if your harasser was merely a co-worker. To find out more about your rights and your options, you need experienced New York employment counsel on your side. The knowledgeable New York sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates have been helping sexual harassment victims for many years as they utilize the legal system to pursue their fight for justice. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to set up a free and confidential consultation. Talk to one of our attorneys right away to find out how we can put our team to work for you.

More blog posts:

New York State Investigation and Lawsuits Review Liability of Hollywood Producer’s Company for Sexual Harassment and Assault, New York Employment Attorney Blog, November 16, 2017

Hotel Supervisor’s Alleged Sexual Advances at Company Holiday Party Lead to New York Harassment Lawsuit, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 10, 2017

Laws Regarding Sexual Harassment Still Apply at New York Holiday Office Parties, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 14, 2016

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