SLAYING Harassment at Holiday Parties





For the past few years, I have told the changing holiday tale of the Jewish Guy Who Wears A Chai. Together, we have taken a journey on how we can maximize the joy and minimize the myriad risks of the holiday season.

This year, the tale is on hold. Instead, the Jewish Guy Who Wears A Chai focuses, solely, on but one very serious issue: sexual harassment.

As we approach our holiday celebrations, we must double down on our efforts to ensure that the confluence of celebration and alcohol do not create fertile soil for harassing behavior. 

  1. Remind Employees of Your Anti-Harassment Policy

Sometimes employees forget that your policy prohibiting harassing behavior applies to social events.  You need to remind them.

Consider providing specific examples. Make clear that alcohol is not a defense to unacceptable conduct. 

  1. Limit the Amount of Alcohol

We all know that alcohol reduces what slim inhibitions may exist for those with a propensity toward bad behavior. 

Limit the amount of alcohol that you serve.  Serve plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and food, too.  Flag aggressively. Etc.

Limiting alcohol consumption not only reduces harassment risks, but also the safety risk of an employee driving while under the influence.

  1. Watch for Unacceptable Conduct and Respond “In the Moment”

Even with a remainder of what is and is not acceptable behavior and limiting alcohol, anticipate that someone will act inappropriately.

Designate certain managers to listen carefully and observe closely for problematic behavior.  Watch for wondering hands and employees dancing too close, for example.  Ideally, a manger can nip problematic behavior in the bud before it rises to the level of no return.

  1. Take Corrective Action

Where an employee acts inappropriately at a holiday party by engaging in harassing behavior, even if not unlawful, there must be consequences.  The EEOC has said the corrective action must be prompt and proportionate.

Sometimes a warning will be enough.  Other times, because of position, pattern and/or conduct, termination may be necessary.  Yes, “it depends.” 

Just remember, HR: to see or hear unacceptable conduct and ignore it is to condone it. We must set the tone!  

Now, enjoy—but be vigilant. Let’s celebrate the holidays, each other and civility.


This article is not legal advice, should not be construed as applying to specific factual situations or as establishing an attorney-client relationship.

Follow me on Twitter at:  Jonathan__HR__Law.



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