‘Let Them Dance…But Not Too Close’: Welcome to the Post-Weinstein Holiday Party

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‘Let Them Dance…But Not Too Close’: Welcome to the Post-Weinstein Holiday Party

Engage CEO, Jay Starkman quoted in the Wall Street Journal

Companies aim to avert problem behavior at office parties with a list of ‘don’ts.’

The caution reflects the combustible mix that holiday work parties often bring together: alcohol plus colleagues dismissive or unsure of what work rules still apply at a celebration outside the office. The heightened sensitivity around sexual misconduct means “the terms of engagement are changing,” said Jay Starkman, chief executive of human-resources services company Engage PEO, who predicts less hugging at his employer’s headquarters holiday bash next week.

After an Engage PEO holiday celebration a few years ago, a woman complained to its HR department because Mr. Starkman hugged her and other male and female associates—but didn’t hug every woman there. He says the incident made him wonder “whether I should ever hug anybody at a holiday party again.’’

Since October, when the first of dozens of women accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of serial sexual harassment and assault, Mr. Starkman said about a dozen company clients have asked him whether they should do anything differently in preparing their holiday parties. His main tip: Remind employees that “our company has no tolerance for any inappropriate conduct.”

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