More Workplaces Consider Banning Booze At Holiday Parties

By Britni de la Cretaz 12/13/17

Employers are opting to cut down on alcohol during holiday parties in an attempt to discourage sexual harassment in the workplace.

friends toasting their wine glasses at Christmas-themed party

As allegations of workplace sexual misconduct continue to mount against powerful men and the large companies accused of being complicit in the harassment, big and small companies alike are looking at their sexual harassment policies and wondering how they can be revised. One way that companies are hoping to discourage sexual harassment is by lessening alcohol availability at holiday parties—or forgoing it altogether.

Last month, following the firing of editorial director Lockhart Steele for inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment, Vox Media sent a company-wide email announcing that they were doing away with their open bar at the holiday party. Instead, each employee will receive two drink tickets for alcoholic drinks.

“We recognize that even though alcohol isn’t always the reason for unprofessional behavior, creating an environment that encourages overconsumption certainly contributes to it,” read the email, as reported by the Huffington Post.

Earlier this summer, in a report with suggested changes to Uber’s culture to make it a less toxic place to work, one of the recommendations given was that the company cut down on alcohol. The report suggested the company implement a clear substance use policy, as well as prohibiting alcohol and use of illicit drugs "during core work hours... at work events, or at other work-sponsored events.”

The investigation into Uber’s culture took place after a former engineer wrote a post on Medium outlining repeated incidents of harassment while she worked for the company.

Following reporting from Vox last month, the New York Times suspended star White House correspondent Glenn Thrush after multiple women who had worked with him reported inappropriate behavior “from unwanted groping and kissing to wet kisses out of nowhere to hazy sexual encounters,” all that “played out under the influence of alcohol.”

Thrush responded to the Vox story with a statement indicating that he was seeking treatment for alcohol addiction. “Over the past several years, I have responded to a succession of personal and health crises by drinking heavily,” he wrote. “During that period, I have done things that I am ashamed of, actions that have brought great hurt to my family and friends.” 

A 2004 study by Cornell University researchers found a connection between permissive workplace drinking cultures and sexual harassment. Following what’s being referred to as the “Weinstein effect,” “I’m sure people in HR departments are like, ‘Holy [expletive], we better be careful,’” Jill Tate, a partner at the Boston party planning company Corinthian Events, told the Boston Globe.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.