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Does your company summer party invite sexual harassment?

Deena Pargman, Ph.D., founder and CEO of DB Pargman Consulting LLC, reveals Five Hot Summer Harassment Survival Strategies based on her many years of providing sensitivity and diversity training to highly valuable employees and executives.   After fourteen years of experience providing one-on-one and group diversity, sensitivity, and anti-harassment training, Dr. Pargman says “she’s seen it all” and can reveal some patterns that will help office workers enjoy a fun summer but also stay out of possible career jeopardizing trouble.


According to Dr. Pargman, the summer months can present a hot-bed of loose situations that lead to later harassment claims.  Relaxed schedules, departure from routine to accommodate summer vacation travel, summer parties and BBQ’s and blistering heat can all combine to create some hot summer moments that you might end up sweating over.  “With the heat outside comes a more relaxed environment that can lull people to be off their best professional game and seduce them into doing or saying things they might otherwise not if things weren’t so relaxed,” says Dr. Pargman.


As the nation’s leading provider of Harassment Prevention and Sensitivity Training for over fourteen years, Dr. Pargman warns:  “summertime heat waves can come back to burn you at a later date,” however, with a little forethought and self-awareness there is no reason to take all the fun out of summer.  They key, according to the experienced HR consultant, is to remember that all the “fun” be in accordance with your company policies and expectations of your office environment.”


Dr. Pargman offers the following Five Hot Summer Harassment Survival Strategies:


(1)           Keep Your Clothes On.  While summer heat may dictate relaxed dress codes outside the office, be careful not to get too relaxed with co-workers, regardless of where you are.  Just because there might be water-side bars and restaurants where flip-flops are the norm and shirts are optional, these would not be good choices for work functions or even non-work socializing with colleagues.


(2)           Pool Parties are For Kids.   Dr. Pargman advises clients to avoid hosting pool parties or other social events where bathing suits would be expected.  Do not plan summer swim parties for your office at the pool, the beach, the water park or any place where someone would be expected to wear a bathing suit.  At best, you are drawing a line between those who feel comfortable in a bathing suit and those that do not and chances are the “do not’s” outnumber the “do’s” – so you are just setting yourself up for awkwardness.  At worst, you are creating a sexually-charged environment and that can easily lead to inappropriate comments, jokes, or invitations.


(3)           Stay Inside Where It’s COOL.  It’s HOT outside – do everyone a favor and throw a summer party INSIDE!  Bowling, roller skating, indoor race tracks, rock climbing, arcades, whirly ball, art-galleries . . . are all comfortable air conditioned places where one would expect to keep their clothes on.


(4)           Enjoy Iced Tea & Lemonade.  Most summer company-parties-gone-wild stories that end in a complaint and Sensitivity Training involve alcohol.  The easiest solution is to skip the liquor at the company summer party.  If you do serve alcohol at a company event, hire a third party bar service or professional bar-tenders and empower them to cut off anyone who has had too much to drink.  Have many non-alcoholic options available.  Create a non-alcoholic signature drink for your event that fits with the theme to allow people the social and conversational benefits of the drink without the alcohol.


(5)           Communicate.  Remind your people that company policies including the sexual harassment and alcohol policy are in effect at all company events even if they are off-campus.  Use email, break room posters, pay stub memos and signage to remind everyone that even though you are going off campus, company policies still apply.


Enjoying a cold beer with a slice of lime pool side in your flip flops could be a great way to connect with your co-workers, but the go-to person who sees those who slip up, warns that three beers later the flip flops are too easily kicked aside, shirts come off and now you’ve got a really hot situation that is not appropriate for the workplace.  Dr. Pargman cautions, “today, it’s not that I see many complaints about gross misconduct, but what I do see is a few months later when someone is slighted, wronged, or injured in another incident, they will remember how many beers so-and-so had at the summer party, what jokes were made and who was wearing (or not wearing) what and that is when you will see the hot summer indiscretions come back to burn in the form of a complaint,” and that’s heat nobody needs.


DB Pargman Consulting LLC is the nation’s leading provider of One-on-One Executive and Sensitivity Training. When a sexual harassment or other complaint occurs involving a valuable employee or executive, DB Pargman provides prompt and remedial responses for companies facing harassment and diversity sensitivity complaints. To help prevent harassment before it occurs, DB Pargman provides best in class preventative Group Anti-Harassment Training Programs.  Headquartered in Atlanta, DB Pargman Consulting LLC serves a national client base of medium to large size companies, educational institutions, and government agencies.



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