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Will your boss protect you from harassment at the holiday party?

It's that time of year again. The holidays are upon us and will be here before you know it. One thing you may be looking forward to is your employer's holiday party. If you have been with the company for some time, you may have already attended one or more. If you are new, others may have told you about it.

While you look forward to it, some of the stories you heard could make you uneasy. Wandering hands, inappropriate comments and other sexually harassing behaviors could take place there.

Are holiday parties really a danger?

Federal and California law require that your employer provide you with a safe and non-hostile work environment. During the remainder of the year, you may come across minor instances of inappropriate behavior, but nothing actionable. However, holiday parties often include alcohol, which can bring about unseemly interactions with coworkers and superiors.

The problem of sexual harassment has come off the back burner and now receives the attention it deserves. This puts extra pressure on companies to make sure that no one becomes a victim during the holiday party.

Is your employer prepared to protect you?

Some are warning companies to make sure their policies regarding sexual harassment comply with current legal requirements. Employers should make sure everyone, including upper management, understands the policies remain in full force and effect during company events, and that means the holiday party as well.

What if it doesn't help?

If, despite your employer's efforts, you become the victim of sexual harassment at the holiday party -- or at any other time --, you have rights and have legal options. If going through management or the HR department does not produce the results you want, have your claim evaluated by a legal professional who is outside the company.

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