Ban the Mistletoe for Harassment-Free Holiday Parties


You’ve made all the plans for the property holiday party — booked the entertainment, ordered the food, purchased gifts for your employees. But have you put your sexual harassment prevention plans in place?

That may not sound like the jolliest part of your planning, but if you want a good party, it’s an essential one.

Holiday parties are legally an extension of your workplace and if your employees get sexually harassed at the party, you are liable. That doesn’t mean the party can’t be fun, but it does mean you need to do some planning and put some preventive measures in place.

Send Your Anti-Harassment Policy Before the Party

First, send out your property’s anti-harassment policy shortly before the party. You can even do it with a reminder that it applies at off-property events such as the holiday party. Don’t have a policy? This is the time to put one together and to send it out and have every employee sign it.

If you do annual sexual harassment training, such as the ServSafe Workplace Sexual Harassment Prevention program for the hospitality industry, consider conducting it in the weeks before your holiday party so that it is fresh in everyone’s mind.

Sexual harassment is an issue year-round, especially in the #metoo era with an increased awareness of how people are being sexually abused in the workplace. It’s why AHLEI has recently released ServSafe Workplace Sexual Harassment Prevention for Hospitality Employees and/or Managers. They are online programs available in English and Spanish.

Invite Employees’ Family Members to Encourage Good Behavior

Kristi H. Johnson, attorney, in an article in HR Professional Magazine, recommends inviting employees’ family members and significant others as a way of encouraging good behavior. She also recommends that you not include such activities as dancing, sitting on Santa’s lap, mistletoe, Twister, or Truth or Dare.

Consider Alcohol Carefully

Consider carefully whether you are going to serve alcohol, as alcohol consumption can lower inhibitions and make it more likely people will engage in inappropriate behavior and talk. If you are going to serve alcohol, consider using tickets or a cash bar rather than an open bar to limit consumption.

Talk to Managers and Supervisors

Talk to your managers and supervisors before the party. Tell them they are not to invite employees out to after-parties or to get-togethers after the party nor should they go to after-parties. Encourage them to keep an eye out during the party for inappropriate behavior and discuss with them how they can stop it if they see it.

You may even want to designate certain managers to look for problem behavior. Train them to watch for employees who are dancing too close or engaging in inappropriate touching.

Your holiday party can be a joyous time for everyone, especially when you and your managers make sure it is a safe and comfortable place for all employees and that it is free from unwanted attention and harassment.