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Christmas Party – ‘Tis the season to be jolly – but not that jolly!

01 December 2013
Christmas Party – ‘Tis the season to be jolly – but not that jolly!

Employers should remember that that the office party can be an employment law minefield. Problems range from employees drinking too much alcohol to instances of misconduct and harassment.

The most likely claim to arise as a result of a Christmas party is a sexual harassment claim.

The definition of harassment can be found at Section 26 Equality Act 2010. Harassment occurs where “ A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating person B’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B.” The relevant protected characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Employers are liable for the discriminatory actions of their employees carried out in the course of their employment. A Tribunal is likely to find that an act that has taken place at a party organised or funded by an employer has been carried out in the course of the employment.

An employer may not be found liable if it can prove that it took steps that were reasonably practicable to prevent the employee from committing such an act in the course of their employment.

If an employee raises a complaint of harassment, employers should act fast and if necessary seek legal advice.

Happy Christmas!

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