The holidays are a time for people in Minnesota and throughout the United States to enjoy some extra time off and take part in holiday parties. Some of these parties are held at their place of employment. While the intention is to allow employees and their supervisors and bosses to socialize in a less-stressful atmosphere and celebrate, studies suggest it also opens the door to the possibility that there will be inappropriate statements or comments and unwanted touching.

Recent research indicates that work events that are designed to be “fun” leads to a rise in sexual harassment cases. Employers can benefit and avoid these complaints, if they have the events during work hours, when workers can choose not to attend and they can bring guests to the event. Avoiding sexual harassment in these circumstances can be achieved, the study says, by management being vigilant with the parties and protecting employees from finding themselves in situations where they are confronted with unwanted sexual advances and other harassing behaviors.

For the study, a fun work event was categorized as one that employers organized and was meant to give employees enjoyment. For the study, two separate groups completed online surveys. Over 300 worked in the restaurant industry and 338 worked in other types of jobs.

The participants were asked about a variety of work-related fun activities, including picnics and holiday parties, celebratory events for work success, personal events, like birthdays, team building and competitions. They answered a variety of questions ranging from how often they faced inappropriate touching, being asked for dates, being stared at in ways that made them uncomfortable and more. Both groups stated fun events resulted in unwanted sexual behaviors.

If workers were required to attend, this and the events being held outside normal work times also increased the chances of sexual harassment. Surprisingly, researchers did not find a correlation between alcohol consumption and harassment.

It is not uncommon for people to feel as if they can behave differently when there is a social event without work requirements interfering. Because holiday parties happen in quick succession during December and into January, it is possible employees might suddenly find themselves trying to determine if they were harassed.