Some Employers Rethink Alcohol at Summer Events in Wake of #MeToo

Some Employers Rethink Alcohol at Summer Events in Wake of #MeToo

Since the #MeToo movement brought the issue of workplace sexual harassment to the forefront of public consciousness last year, many employers in the US and around the world have been reconsidering some of their policies and practices to reduce the likelihood of misconduct occurring or being tolerated within their organization. During last winter’s holiday season, more employers decided against serving alcohol at their office holiday parties, mindful of the risk that a drunk employee could engage in sexual harassment or other behavior that would incur liability for the organization. Others eschewed open bars in favor of drink ticket systems that limited employees to just two or three drinks, or other methods for discouraging overconsumption.

Now that summer is here, US employers are looking at another season of office parties, outings, and happy hours where these risks must be considered yet again. At The American Lawyer, reporter Meghan Tribe looks into how Big Law firms are rethinking their perks for summer associates, high-achieving law students exploring careers at the firm, who have traditionally enjoyed boozy dinners and other events over the course of their summer associate program jobs. Patrick Krill, a behavioral health consultant for the legal sector, explained to Tribe that, “In light of #MeToo movement, an open bar at a summer associate event is potentially a tinderbox of liability,” particularly since so many workplace sexual harassment claims in the industry are linked back to events with alcohol.

As an alternative, Tribe reports, some firms are redesigning their summer associate programs around events that don’t involve drinking. The itinerary for Goodwin Procter summer associates this year, for example, includes spin classes, cooking classes, and trips to the theater. The firm has also mandated anti-harassment training for all its employees (including summer associates), and will limit the availability of alcohol at work functions. Aside from the liability concerns, Goodwin Procter views its revamped summer associate program as an opportunity to communicate its culture and values, as well as demonstrate that it has gotten the message of #MeToo.

Organizations or teams planning summer events can take a few lessons from what these law firms and other companies are doing.

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Is Your Office Holiday Party a Hit? Most Aren’t.

Is Your Office Holiday Party a Hit? Most Aren’t.

Over the next few weeks, countless organizations in the US, Europe, and around the world will hold end-of-year holiday parties for their employees. While some employees are looking forward to the event, SHRM’s Dana Wilkie highlights a new survey from the staffing firm OfficeTeam that finds that only 36 percent of office workers describe their workplace holiday parties as entertaining, while 35 percent say they are no fun. Most describe their company’s events as fairly tame and not particularly extravagant, and only about a quarter of employees feel like attendance at them is obligatory.

Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, tells Wilkie that with careful planning, employers can endure that their holiday events feel like rewards rather than obligations to their employees:

Scheduling, for instance, can be a sticking point. For instance, many companies plan parties during weekend evenings in November and December, which can be a busy time for workers who may be shopping, decorating or attending personal holiday events. …

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