Two allegations of unwanted sexual advances at work Christmas parties and the unprofessional way the companies handled them have caught the attention of those annually called in to help in the aftermath of the festive season.
The incidents come as employment lawyers tell of a rush of claims following the revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein last year and increased awareness around sexual harassment and assault.
Both incidents — breast-groping on the dance floor and a sexual assault — allegedly occurred at work Christmas parties last month.
An employment law advocate told the Weekend Herald he was working for a middle manager "fired instantly" after company bosses were told he groped the breasts of a colleague while they danced at the Christmas party.
The advocate, who asked not to be named to protect his client, said the man came to him for help after he was fired the following day.
The man claimed the touching was consensual and he was not asked for his side of the story before being dismissed, the advocate said.
"There was no consultation, the proper process was not done."
The company involved was "sizeable" and had offices around the country.
"I'm sure people would recognise the name."
Wynn Williams Lawyers' partner Anthony Drake said he had been made aware of an alleged sexual assault at the Christmas party of a mid-sized Auckland business.
A young woman made the allegation about a male manager to colleagues. But Drake was particularly concerned at what apparently happened when word spread to senior management.
"The victim got talked out of making a complaint by a female, senior member of staff," he said he'd been told. "She [then] resigned and moved on."
Senior managers of the company decided not to investigate further, because no official complaint had been made, Drake said.
That was wrong, he said.
"There is a duty to investigate and also the duty to maintain a safe workplace, free of those kind of behaviours," Drake said.
"I just want employers to think about their obligations in those circumstances. Not having a [formal complaint] isn't a bar to that."
There has been an increased focus on safety in the workplace since major reforms designed to protect employees came into effect in 2016. The Health and Safety at Work Act enshrines a higher level of due diligence for company bosses, such as directors and chief executives, in keeping workers safe.
Drake said a friend had told him about the woman's sexual assault allegation and hoped she would contact him if she wanted help.
"I'd love to speak to her."
The situation for those subject to unwanted sexual advances in the workplace had changed since Weinstein was accused in October of being a sexual predator, he said.
More than 80 women, including Kiwi model and actress Zoe Brock, joined the chorus of accusers in revelations that helped spark the growing #MeToo movement for social change as other women, and some men, spoke up to accuse dozens of powerful figures of sexual misconduct - most recently Australian actor Craig McLachlan.
The accusations against Weinstein were a "seminal moment", Drake said.
"[They encouraged] people to come forward and speak out when things are not right, to have the confidence to speak out. It has moved the boundaries, for people to say 'no more'.
"It will create a far healthier work environment."
Fellow employment lawyer Catherine Stewart had also noticed a change since the Weinstein revelations. She had no Christmas party cases, but there had been a rush of women coming forward with allegations at the end of the year.
In her 25 years in the business, the volume was unusual.
"[Weinstein] was not specifically mentioned but the mood, from what we observed, was that women feel a little less inhibited about speaking out. There's a new empowerment for women and a new sense of employers being ready to listen.
"This is quite new, since the Harvey Weinstein matter."
Whitehead Group employment advocate Max Whitehead, who has received no Christmas party-related queries, said employers were moving away from the boozy festive celebrations of the past.
The Herald has reported previously on the fallout of inappropriate behaviour at work Christmas parties, including when a chief executive was accused of kissing multiple female staff — one on the lips — and joking he was acting "a bit like Roger Sutton".
Employment lawyer Garry Pollak, who also had no Christmas party cases this year, said one boss told him last Christmas he'd given each staff member a $500 voucher, in place of a party.
Another company put $200 to $300 per staff member towards the Auckland City Mission in place of the annual Christmas bash.
"That apparently went down well. I think that was part of the general awareness that there is this growing poverty that people feel quite bad about."
Even for those still holding Christmas parties, expectations of staff had evolved, Pollak said.
"Behaviours that were tolerated are no longer acceptable. It's one of those things that is just changing."