In just a few festive hours, an employee can do or say something at the annual holiday party (see previous post) that could lead to a sexual harassment claim – and a legal mess that lasts long after the tinsel comes down.
To keep the good cheer in check and protect your company from a harassment claim:
Remind employees of your no-harassment policy. Redistribute the policy before the holiday party, and emphasize that all guidelines will be in full force, even if the party occurs off-site or after work hours. Be certain your employees understand that harassment can be verbal, physical or visual. The areas that could get someone in trouble at a holiday event are most likely verbal and physical harassment, including inappropriate comments, jokes, unwelcome physical contact, invading one’s physical space and offensive gestures.
Make sure all employees and supervisors have received sexual harassment training. If you haven’t conducted sexual harassment training in the past year, consider organizing a one- to two-hour session that covers definitions and examples of harassment, an overview of employee rights, and clear communication that the company will not tolerate harassment of any kind.
A few last tips …
Since you could be found liable for injuries caused by a drunken employee, consider not serving alcohol at all – or taking steps to limit consumption, such as providing a limited number of drink tickets for each employee, closing the bar well before the party ends or offering perks to employees who volunteer to be designated drivers.
Also, stress to supervisors the importance of setting a professional example, and that you’re counting on them to keep an eye on any employee antics that could get out of hand.