Steven Mitchell Sack Urges Companies to Be Aware of Inappropriate Behavior That May Occur at Holiday Parties
Also Offers Effective Ways to Reduce Lawsuits Resulting from Other Incidents
Since many actresses, including Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have come out to level charges of sexual harassment against Hollywood power broker Harvey Weinstein, many women — from the entertainment industry to the private sector to all levels of government — have come out and shared their own traumatic experiences with men in positions of power.
Now that it is December, many companies are planning their annual holiday parties. But while these events are an opportunity for employees to enjoy each other’s company outside of the office and relax, Attorney Steven Mitchell Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer,” says that some see this as an opportunity to make inappropriate remarks or actions with other co-workers.
To prevent such incidents from happening at an otherwise joyful event, Mr. Sack suggests that companies distribute a “zero tolerance” memo for sexual harassment before the start of the party. The document should define what constitutes inappropriate behavior and remind workers that anyone who commits sexual harassment before, during, or after the party will be subject to strict penalties, including possible immediate dismissal.
“It is important that employees be on their best behavior in front of their colleagues and their supervisors should take note of that behavior,” Mr. Sack says. “The probability of such unfortunate incidents increases when alcohol is involved. Some of these incidents have resulted in sexual assaults, in which the company can be held liable for what happened.”
Mr. Sack says other incidents at holiday parties are not restricted to sexual harassment or assault. He offers the following tips to reduce lawsuits employees may face:
● Consider making the party an alcohol-free event. If alcohol is served, then the company should hire experienced bartenders only (as opposed to volunteer company employees), who are trained to stop serving liquor to those who have drunk too much. The company should also consider offering car service where applicable.
● Schedule the party when office hours have concluded to avoid claims of failing to pay wages and overtime for hourly workers who attend the function or are required to attend.
● Consider having the event at a location away from, or not affiliated with, the company. This will reduce the risk of theft of company property, trade secrets, or other valuable assets that can go missing at such events.
● Inform employees to act discreetly when taking pictures. Posting photographs on social networking sites that are provocative or inappropriate can be detrimental to the business. This is not the kind of publicity any employer desires.
“The holiday season should be a time for celebration,” said Mr. Sack. “However, when rejoicing with colleagues during such festivities, employees should keep these instructions in mind. There is no need to ruin an enjoyable experience with unfortunate and potentially expensive incidents that could have been easily avoided.”
For more information, call (917) 371-8000 or visit www.theemployeeslawyer.com.
About Steven Mitchell Sack
Steven Mitchell Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer®,” has been enforcing workplace rights of employees, executives, and sales representatives for 37 years. He is a practicing attorney concentrating in employment law, as well as an author of 19 books, a lecturer and syndicated radio talk show host. Together with attorney Scott A. Lucas, they obtained a $6.2 million injury verdict in 2015 on behalf of three pregnant employees, as well as a favorable Court of Appeals decision for a group of waiters who were denied their fair share of tips that were held back by a caterer. For more information, visit www.theemployeeslawyer.com.