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Preventing holiday harassment in the workplace

The holidays are here. While this should be a festive and enjoyable time, there are some issues that can arise for employers during the holidays. These issues could be as minor as workers getting distracted by online shopping, or they could become quite serious. 

For instance, there could be an increased risk for workplace harassment during the holidays. As such, it is crucial for employers to prepare accordingly.

Defining inappropriate conduct

Now is a good time to review with your employees what is and is not acceptable workplace conduct. If you are having a holiday party, for instance, you might include with any written correspondence information about your harassment policy.

Remind employees of what sexual harassment can involve, from unwanted sexual advances to offensive comments about a person's appearance or attire. Remind them that there is no place for such behaviors in the workplace or at any work function.

Reviewing reporting protocol with managers

It can also be wise for employers to review with managers the responsibilities they have for taking complaints of harassment seriously. This means properly documenting complaints, reporting the complaint to Human Resources, following up with a thorough investigation and being sensitive to the alleged victim.

A manager's failure to respond appropriately can lead to legal action and costly penalties.

Minimizing elements that can fuel harassment

Alcohol at work functions can lower people's inhibitions, thereby creating potential for inappropriate and unwelcome comments and behaviors. 

As this article suggests, it can be wise to limit alcohol consumption at work functions. This might include limiting people to a certain number of drinks with drink tickets or deciding against serving alcohol altogether. Another option might be to hold an event in a more formal setting or invite families to set a less raucous tone. 

Workplace harassment can be an issue any time of year. However, the holidays in particular can put people in positions to act inappropriately or ignore the rules. Taking these steps can shield workers from harassment and protect employers from facing legal disputes in the new year.

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