EEOC presents advice on harassment by third-parties just in time for the holiday season

As with any complaint, employers must take all allegations seriously

This is a popular time of year for many companies to hold a holiday office party. Such events can establish camaraderie between employees, offer an opportunity to recognize the success of the past year, and motivate employees to work hard for the employer in the future. One practical tip that many follow to reduce potential liability with a holiday party is to allow staff to bring their significant other, another guest, or even clients to the big event. This may be done in hopes of curtailing any questionable behavior that might result in a charge of unlawful harassment and making sure everything remains “grandma-approved.”

Just in time for the holiday office party, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reminded the public about an employer’s potential liability when guests behave inappropriately. In an informal discussion letter released to the public on Nov. 7 the EEOC addressed the topic of harassment by third-parties. The letter, specifically answering questions pertaining to citizen harassment of law enforcement officers, highlights that the employer’s response to harassment is most significant. The EEOC advises that employers can avoid liability by taking reasonable steps to prevent harassment by third parties. The reasonableness of that response depends on the totality of the circumstances. Elements that may be considered include “the nature of the alleged harassment, the specific context in which it arose and practical limitations on the employer’s ability to respond to the harassment.”

Contributing Author

author image

Mark Spognardi

Mark Spognardi is a partner at Arnstein & Lehr. He focuses on representing management in traditional and non-traditional labor and employment law matters, including counseling,...

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.