Businesses cutting out holiday parties for fear of sexual harassment

TAMPA, Fla. -- You wait all year for it: the annual company holiday party. It is certainly the season for co-workers to get together and celebrate the end of a successful year. But a new survey shows some businesses will not be participating this year. 

"Christmas parties or things like that really show appreciation for your employees," said Cynthia Sass, of Sass Law Firm.

Christina Cossa says her former employer went all out and alcohol was always an option. 

"Once it was a really nice sit down dinner, couple times it was a place where there was dancing," said Cossa.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a national human resource consulting company, surveyed 150 Human Resource departments across the nation. Eleven perceent say they are nixing the party all together. The group says recent headlines, many coming out of Hollywood, may be the reason businesses are concerned over sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the workplace. 

“Employers are currently very wary of creating an environment where inappropriate contact between employees could occur,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

"If you feel like things are going to happen that are going to lead to sexual harassment claims, then I think you need to look at how your employees are behaving, what type of environment is there," said Sass.

Sass has been representing employees for more than thirty years on various issues, but says sexual harassment is a reoccurring thing.

"These type of people who are going to do that at Christmas parties are doing it all year long," she said.

Eighty percent of businesses say they will still hold the party, but only 48% will be serving alcohol, compared to the 62% last year. Some are holding their parties during the week. Others say they are cutting back on expenses like catering.

Sass says a dinner or lunch setting may change the atmosphere of the party.

“The current climate thankfully supports victims of sexual misconduct. HR departments want to ensure workers have a safe and happy holiday season, not one marred by a disturbing workplace party experience,” added Challenger.


The HR consultants say if you are going do not over drink and never talk business. Arrive early so you have quality time with senior executives while things are quiet. Plus, work the room and talk with people you may not normally interact with. If possible, attend other companies' holiday parties which will help you network.

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