Your company’s upcoming holiday party provides an opportune time to review your company’s anti-harassment policies and procedures. Employers responding to claims of hostile work environment must demonstrate that they exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any harassing behavior.
Maintaining and following a stated policy prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation is a vital step toward establishing reasonable care. At a minimum, the employer’s anti-harassment policy must:
Define discriminatory harassment and retaliation ; set forth a complaint procedure ; identify who employees should contact if they believe they have been subject to harassment; identify disciplinary measures for policy violations; and assure employees that retaliation for making a complaint is strictly prohibited.
In addition, the policy should make clear that the employer has zero tolerance for harassment and that the policy applies also to work-related events. Employers should circulate their anti-harassment and retaliation policy before any holiday party to ensure that it is clearly articulated and understood.
Employers may consider implementing additional preventative measures, especially if alcohol will be available. These measures include prohibiting mistletoe or permitting staff members to dress up as Santa . If your company engages in a white elephant or other gift exchange, clear parameters should be set on appropriate gifts. Additional considerations include holding the party on a weekday, hiring a bartender , limiting alcoholic options, giving out drink tickets or doing away with alcohol altogether. Depending on the size of your company, you may want to designate one or two members of your staff to observe and to address harassment issues , should any arise.
This article was originally published in The Better SMB on December 13, 2017. See below for the original article.