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An Australian Tale

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was an in-house employment lawyer who went to holiday parties and participated in company gift exchanges. However, the horror she witnessed was such that henceforth each year she locked herself in her ivory tower for the entire month of December. And she was sad. Until a miracle this year … Australia’s new Respect@Work legislation has become law just in time. This legislation requires companies and professional associations to be pro-active in preventing sexual harassment. What joy! The employment lawyer can do her job AND have a happy holiday season. Sharing the joy of the season and some pro-active tips with all in-house counsel and employees everywhere.

1. Secret Santa gifts such as soap or chocolates or candles should never be anatomically correct. Watch what wording goes on t-shirts, mugs and keep cups too!

2. Ditch the mistletoe, someone always ends up hurt (or with some virus - don't forget to get your COVID booster!). If the last few years have taught us anything - it is to avoid going in for that holiday hug without permission.

3. Make sure any holiday team building event is accessible and comfortable for your entire team. Thinking of a cruise on the harbour? Avoid any that involve waitstaff referred to as “tasty wenches or hunks.”

4. Don’t click on that enticing link, don’t share the hysterical naughty elves on reindeer tiktok, don’t fall for IT’s holiday themed phishing trickery.

5. Budget for plenty of food if you are serving drinks. Close the bar early, provide rides home, do not rock on  (I know, I’m really no fun at all). And remember that not everyone drinks, even after the last couple of years.

6. Provide chairs, no one should be sitting in Santa’s lap.

7. And speaking of Santa, being dressed as them does not give you  an excuse to leer, wink or call your co-workers little boys and girls in a creepy voice. The smallest person on your team does not want to dress as an elf, or be treated like one.

8. Party texting, whatsapping, tweeting or slacking? So easy to mix up the number of your ex with your bosses, co-workers or clients. What exactly does that emoji mean?

9. If your holiday-inspired joke is at someone else’s expense, it is not appropriate for your workplace. Here’s one you can use: What do you call Santa’s little helpers? Answer: Subordinate clauses. (seriously, what did you expect from a lawyer?)

10. Do something good - give blood, do pro bono, feed the hungry, carry extra change (those metal round things), take care of each other - if one of your colleagues does embarrass themselves at a work-related or networking event, it IS your responsibility to speak up, stop them and make sure they get home safely. Not everyone has an easy time of the holidays – RUOK? is even more important this time of year. Make sure all employees know how to reach EAP or post the lifeline number (13 11 14) in your breakroom.

Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate!