Sexism is common at Christmas work parties but you do NOT have to put up with this unacceptable behaviour. The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from harassment at work-related social events.
Cornered by lecherous co-workers with wandering hands. Told loudly by a senior colleague that you’re too “hot” to be part of the technical team. Proclaimed winner of the “best legs” award. Offered a colleague a lift home only to be sexually assaulted in the back of a taxi. Alongside the obvious connections, these experiences have one thing in common that might surprise you. They all happened to women attending work Christmas parties.
Around this time of year, the Everyday Sexism Project sees an upsetting spike in stories from working women who have experienced sexism, harassment and even assault at annual company festivities. The stories are varied and complex. In some cases, women are excluded from the party altogether, missing out on networking opportunities, and sidelined from the team, whilst others are sexually propositioned by married colleagues:
“My boss’s boss, a married man, made several attempts to molest me at a Christmas party, including grabbing my breasts, pulling me towards him, slapping my bottom and trying to force unwanted kisses on me. Exasperated, I eventually told him to ‘f*** off’, then spent an anxious weekend worrying that I would lose my job. Fortunately, I didn’t, but he continued pestering me. Everyone thought it was funny and that I should be flattered.”
While some argue that this is “no big deal”, the long-term impact is often much greater than one might realise:
“While working for a law firm and attending the Christmas party, one of the male partners told me that my dress was pretty, but would look better crumpled on his bedroom floor. He kept asking to walk me home, even though he was married and I was living with my boyfriend at the time. I felt quite frightened of him and left the party swiftly when he wasn’t looking so I could get home without the fear of being pursued. I complained to my boss who, of course, had a word with him, but he continued to make my working life intolerable, so I left.”
For many women who experience a surge of workplace harassment in environments there isn’t necessarily an HR department to notify, nor a means of complaining without feeling they may be jeopardising their position.
For those who feel able to protest and might be strengthened by factual ammunition, it’s important to know that the Equality Act 2010 protects people from harassment by their employer and their colleagues. This includes unwanted or unwelcome behaviour that violates their dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive atmosphere. And yes, this applies to work-related social events such as office Christmas parties. If you feel able to do so, you have every right to complain – and your employer should take the problem seriously.
Read the full article as published by The Guardian here: http://goo.gl/uOd5id