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Office Holiday Parties In The Era of #MeToo

November 28, 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, a company’s annual ritual of the office holiday party may be causing a lot more stress, especially given the #MeToo movement and fear of being another major headline involving workplace harassment.  Whether you are part of the trend to move away from these holiday parties, or decide to show your thankfulness to your employees during this holiday season, be sure someone else doesn’t show you just how “thankful” they are for your company’s pocket book!  Below are some helpful tips to consider and ensure that when throwing that shindig, you limit the exposure of having a #MeToo incident occur on your watch this holiday season.   

Encourage “Plus One” Attendance

 

Yes, a “plus one” may add cost to the party, but ensuring that management and employees have his/her spouse or significant other at the party ensures that a person is less likely to “make a move” on a direct report or other co-worker.  The same holds true for those employees whose eyes are on their “boss” or “management.” They are less likely to pull a “Love Actually” scene when they have a significant other or spouse with them.  

 

Hire a Bartender – Seriously

 

It’s simple.  This prevents any “over serving” to any of your employees.  The last thing you want beside an overly-confident manager hitting on a younger associate is an employee getting seriously injured driving home or causing an injury to others.  One option is to provide “drink tickets” or limit the amount of alcohol drinks to 2 or 3, depending on the length of the party.  Some employers are limiting the drinks to wine and beer even. More importantly, make sure that there is plenty of water on the tables, being passed around and at the bar.  These are some easy steps to ensure your party is a hit, without any dirty dancing scenes making a comeback!  

 

Food, Food and More Food

 

With any holiday party, make sure there are plenty of finger foods – whether they are passed by servers or on a handy food table positioned strategically around the party area.  Most companies like to skimp on the “appetizers,” but having enough of these will not only slow the effects of alcohol, but keep people from not eating or making a b-line straight to the bar.   

 

Uber, Lyft, or Taxi – Just Don’t Drive Yourself! 

 

Whether you Uber, Lyft or take a taxi, consider providing ride vouchers or credits for those who use a ride share service or taxi. In fact, you can even offer special gifts to those who arrive in a car service or taxi or have designated themselves as designated driver.  Make sure you encourage this use of travel with reminders to your employees.   Lastly, whether you drive or not, make sure a manager/executive and an employee do not “share” a ride home together, no matter how close they may live to each other.  

 

Your Employer Harassment Protection Plan (“EHP Plan”) Does Not Stop When The Party Starts! 

 

Prior to your company extravaganza, make sure your employees and leadership know the company’s stance on workplace harassment. Communicate this standard to all your employees.   Remind the management team that they are “on duty” and, if you are an executive, consider not drinking at all or limiting your consumption to just one glass of wine or beer.  Take the time to visit with your employees and their spouses/significant others with an approach of gratitude – before you know it, the party will be over and you and your company will not be the next headline!  

 

Work Shield and the EHP Plan

 

Although the tips above should provide a safer environment for the holiday office party, there will nonetheless be those employers who have workplace harassment incidences throughout this holiday season.  With Work Shield and the EHP Plan, employers provide an ERISA-qualified benefit plan that provides (i) employees an independent platform to file incident reports of workplace harassment while (ii) removing the employer from handling the intake, investigation, reporting, and recommendation for each incident and allows Work Shield and its experts to handle any incidence – even those that occur at a holiday office party.  To find out more on how Work Shield’s approach not only removes any "fear" of reporting from the employee, but protects the employer from mishandling any incident or having a manager "sweep it under the rug, please visit www.theworkshield.com or send an email to hello@theworkshield.com.   

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