Just one year ago, we invited our friend Jonathan Segal to host a webinar on "Avoiding the HR Headaches of the Holiday Season." But since the “joyous” headaches of the season are never ending, we invite you to check out these six key pieces of friendly advice that Jonathan offered during the call...[It's important to remember that while the suggestions listed below are great starting points for navigating the trials and tribulations of the HR holiday season, they should not be construed as legal advice pertaining to specific factual situations. If you have specific questions on how your company can (legally) engage in some holiday cheer, seek legal counsel...]
Should an employer have a seasonal celebration?
“Absolutely. It's a time of year that can be the most wonderful time of the year if we are thoughtful about how we maximize inclusion and minimize the risks. But just because you call it a seasonal celebration doesn't mean that you have to eliminate all references to specific holidays. That includes Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, to name just three."
How do we navigate appropriate holiday greetings in a culturally diverse world?
“I don't think we need to eliminate Christmas, it's a beautiful holiday, but I don't think we should assume Christmas because we live in a culturally diverse world, and that includes religious diversity. So let's begin with the default premise of ‘Season's Greetings’ -- unless we know otherwise. When we know otherwise it's respectful to customize.”
How do you handle workplace gifts, particularly gifts of alcohol when you have a rule that prohibits alcohol in the workplace?
“I'm going to say this very directly: You don't want to give someone a gift that you would give someone with whom you're having an intimate relationship. Anything that would be sexual or suggestive is inappropriate. I kind of like the idea of not giving the alcohol, but if you're going to accept it, then just say, ‘Accept it, don't open it, and take it home.’"
To party or not to party? That is the question...
“There are complications with holiday celebrations, but they're an important part of building your workplace community, so by being thoughtful about them in advance, you can maximize engagement and minimize risks.”
What steps do you take to minimize (but not eliminate) the risk of allowing adults to consume alcohol at the Holiday Party?
“The only way you eliminate the risk is if you don't have any alcohol. But there are a number of steps you can take to minimize the risk. You can limit the number of drinks an individual can have. You can require individuals pay for the drinks and give the money to charity and still have a cap on it. You can shorten or even eliminate the happy hour. You can have some non-alcohol bars. You can have lots of food available. Consider having cab vouchers available so individuals can take them. Finally, have designated watchers -- individuals who will see if someone is acting aberrantly from drinking too much.”
And finally... any tips for dealing with a rowdy dance floor at the Holiday Party?
“I think you need to remind people that although it's a holiday party, and although it's a time for us to have fun, that on the dance floor or otherwise, individuals still need to act appropriately... and HR folks, I know you get tired of it, but it's our job! If you see someone that's acting inappropriately, if they're dancing too close, if they're dancing in a sexual way, if their hands are wandering. See it, ignore it, condone it. See it, stop it, and mitigate the risk.”