Prevent #MeToo mishaps at your holiday party

By Barbara Spector

With #MeToo incidents still very much in the news, plans for companies’ holiday parties must include strategies for preventing sexual harassment. This is especially important for family companies because what happens at the holiday festivities can affect your family’s reputation.

Here are some tips from Scott Cooper and Brooke Iley, co-chairs of the labor and employment practice group at law firm Blank Rome LLP:

• Send a companywide memo, signed by the top leader in the organization, stating that a zero-tolerance policy will be strictly enforced and no one is exempt — not even family members or rainmakers.

• Review your policies and complaint procedures. For example, if you have expanded to new locations or closed some facilities, do the reporting channels still make sense?

• Immediately before the party, send a memo to all staff reminding them of your code of conduct. State in the memo that employees and their guests are expected to behave appropriately. (This will cover family members who don’t work for the company as well as employees’ guests.)

• Consider limiting or not offering alcohol.

• Work with your HR department to develop a strategic plan for dealing with those who might get out of hand. (This might include talking to these individuals before the party.)

• Observe the proceedings as if you were a high school chaperone, and deal with questionable conduct quietly, before it crosses any lines.

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