Can Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Occur at a Halloween Work Party?

Workplace Halloween parties are meant to provide an opportunity for employees to dress up and socialize in a fun and festive environment. Unfortunately, Halloween parties can also be sources of discrimination and sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can be directed at both men and women. However, women are more frequently targeted during office social events, such as a Halloween party, particularly if alcohol is served. Common factors that can lead to sexual harassment or discrimination complaints include:

  • Alcohol consumption: The presence of alcohol at any work party can be risky for employers and employees, as consumption lowers inhibitions and increases risk-taking. Employees who drink too much may engage in inappropriate or offensive behaviors, including unwanted sexual advances and physical touching of another employee.
  • Inappropriate costumes: Partygoers should carefully consider their choice of costume for the office Halloween party. Revealing costumes may increase the likelihood of unwanted sexual advances, inappropriate and offensive comments, or touching. Likewise, many costumes may also be culturally or religiously offensive or discriminatory in nature to fellow employees and should not be worn.
  • Religious beliefs: Some cultures and religions consider Halloween as a sacrilegious or Pagan observance and do not believe in celebrating the holiday. While any employee can choose not to participate in the office Halloween party, those who choose to abstain due to religious beliefs can experience harassment or discrimination by other employees over their decision.

Employers can help protect employees from sexual harassment and discrimination by establishing a dress code, not serving alcohol, and reviewing the company harassment and discrimination policies with all employees prior to the party. Doing so helps ensure all employees are fully aware of what constitutes as inappropriate behavior.

What if You Experience Harassment?

Despite your employer’s attempt to create a harassment-free environment during the office Halloween party, some employees may still engage in inappropriate behavior. If you experience sexual harassment, you should do the following:

  • Say “no” to the offender: Be upfront when the incident occurs. Be direct and tell the harasser their behavior is unwelcome and ask them to stop. Not only does this inform the individual, but it also establishes one of the main criteria required to meet the legal definition of sexual harassment should you file a potential claim.
  • Inform supervisor: This action is two-fold. If you are afraid to address your harasser directly during the party, or have concerns the behavior will escalate once confronted, seek out and inform a supervisor. Secondly, even if you confront the harasser during the party, you should still notify your supervisor at the time or when you return to work next. Doing so puts your supervisor and other superiors on notice that sexual harassment took place, and it is also a critical first step should you decide to file a claim. Review your workplace policies for making a sexual harassment complaint and follow them properly.
  • Document the incident: While this may seem difficult during a work party, documenting the incident of sexual harassment is important. As soon as you are able to, write down the details of the incident, your actions at the time, and note any witnesses that can be called upon for statements. Also, keep any photos or videos taken at the party that document the behavior.

South Jersey Employment Lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Assists Clients Subjected to Harassment at Workplace Halloween Parties

Halloween parties are meant to be fun, however, some employees take the opportunity to sexually harass or discriminate fellow employees. If you have been harassed or discriminated at work, speak with our South Jersey employment lawyer at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. Call us at 856-235-7075 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Atlantic City and Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.