WWWD? (What would Wendy do?)
Fun and Games until Harassment Arrives
Now that the mask mandate and isolation periods have been removed in PEI, people are ready to have holiday staff parties IRL (in real life). Food, music, drinks, festive spirits, and maybe some hugs and mistletoe smooches. But wait! Physical touch? It is a story that comes around every year. Like the old saying, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, or in this case, loses their better judgement.
But hey, what happens at the staff party, stays at the staff party, right? Nope.
But I had a few too many drinks; Sorry, I didn’t know what I was doing. Nope, not going to cover it.
Inappropriate behaviours between staff in any environment, on or off duty, is still harassment (sexual, psychological, social). Groping hugs, kisses in general, or sexualized touching are harassment and are subject to workplace harassment policies and discipline. While people are mostly just wanting to have fun and let loose, employers must still take the high road and ensure a safe workplace, even if it is the holiday staff party.
So what are some tips for employers regarding holiday celebrations?
- Make attendance at holiday parties voluntary, not mandatory
- Hold the party off the worksite and with professional service providers
- Be confident in the liability insurance you and the venue host have
- Remind staff in advance that you want them to have fun but remember to respect one another
- Limit alcohol service and provide non-alcoholic beverages (Upstreet’s Libra, anyone?)
- Encourage carpooling with someone who is everyone’s end-of-night best friend: the designated driver
- Encourage or provide transportation services
- Ensure your staff understands your respectful workplace policy, including the content about harassment
- Follow up on any incidents that you hear or know about, whether as an investigation, discipline or coaching
- And if you are the ‘boss,’ limit your ‘fun’ and keep a cool head just in case it is needed
To all of you, partying or not, we wish you all the very best of the season!