Holiday office parties are as much of a tradition as the season itself. The office holiday party is an obligatory rite of passage this time of year. It’s a great time to relax and enjoy your colleagues and get to know them in a more relaxed and non-work environment. Yet, it’s also fraught with danger. It is becoming more and more commonplace that a holiday office party becomes a breeding ground for unwanted personal, social, and sexual advances. Such situations put you and your company in legal danger.
Employees who are victims of unwanted advances or other harassing behavior at a company’s holiday party may sue their employers for sexual harassment because holiday parties are an extension of the workplace. Add alcohol to the mix and you have a perfect recipe for disaster. Employers should be cognizant of this potential danger and provide employees with a reminder about office policies concerning behavior and alcohol use.
Employers can take steps to avoid these problems by doing the following:
1)Re-publish the company’s sexual harassment policy before holiday parties take placeRemind employees that holiday festivities do not offer an excuse for violating policy. If a company doesnot have a written policy, this would be a good time to implement one. (Probably too late now to do that.)2)Remind all employees of the company’s code of conduct and/or dress code.3)Managers should be trained in sexual harassment policies and steps to avoid the behaviors that lead to sexual harassment.4)Keep an eye on alcohol consumption. Managers, supervisors, and owners should keep a close eye on alcohol consumption since there’s a direct correlation between the amount of consumption and the lowering of inhibitions.
This should be an enjoyable occasion for everyone involved. If you’re pro-active and take steps to curb any illegal behavior it will be. A company holiday party is still governed by laws and regulations concerning the workplace, keep that in mind in throwing your holiday party.