Connecticut Employment Law Blog Insight on Labor & Employment Developments for Connecticut Businesses

Sexual Harassment of Santa Claus – What’s An Employer To Do?

Posted in Human Resources (HR) Compliance

Santa Claus has enough employment issues to worry about without thinking about what will happen at the local mall when posing for pictures. After all, how treacherous can photo taking be?

Apparently, very — when the person who wants to take a picture with Santa is interested in….well, I’ll let the Hartford Courant pick up the story:

A 33-year-old woman who posed for a picture with Santa Claus at Danbury Fair Mall over the weekend wanted more than a photo, police said.

Sandrama Lamy inappropriately touched a 65-year-old worker dressed as Santa on Saturday while sitting on his lap, police said. She is charged with fourth-degree sexual assault and breach of peace, both misdemeanors.

According to police, Santa Claus reported an incident to them. Although the woman had left the area, she apparently was "easy to spot because she was on crutches, police said."

Presumably, the "real" Santa Claus is an independent contractor.  But if Santa Claus becomes an employee of the mall, does the mall have any exposure to the harassment by the customer?

Unlikely. The federal regulations on the subject of non-employee harassment, which can be found at 29 C.F.R. 1604.11(e), do suggest some limited circumstances where an employer could be liable for customer harassment. Specifically:

An employer may also be responsible for the acts of non- employees, with respect to sexual harassment of employees in the workplace, where the employer (or its agents or supervisory employees) knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. In reviewing these cases the Commission will consider the extent of the employer’s control and any other legal responsibility which the employer may have with respect to the conduct of such non-employees.

I’m just taking a hunch here, but I’m imagining that this kind of harassment of Santa Claus is pretty rare; thus, its unlikely the employer could have foreseen this kind of harassment. (Readers, please let me know if I’m off base here).  And now, after the incident has occurred by this customer, the police have arrested the woman, making it unlikely to occur from her again. 

The mall, for its part, indicating that this type of behavior is not tolerated, according to another report. 

Danbury Fair mall spokeswoman Melissa Eigen called the alleged groping "an isolated incident….The safety of our guests and employees is a top priority, and we strive to create a safe and enjoyable shopping environment at all our facilities and Danbury Fair specifically,"

Is there anything else Santa and the mall can do to avoid this type of incident in the future?  Far be it for me to be a grinch and suggest that Santa avoid any contact with individuals while taking pictures. That is the nature of the job. (Sliding down chimneys is also an occupational hazard, but I’ll leave that for another blog post.)

Let me suggest instead that perhaps Santa can just take measures into his own hands.  He can make a list, check it twice, and ensure that any future harassers are on the "naughty" list.  Then he should just give them coal for Christmas.  That should stop the harassment. 

Any other suggestions, blog readers?

  • Dave C.

    What was a 33-year-old doing sitting on Santa’s lap anyhow? Seems inappropriate per se.
    The mall could implement a simple “children only” policy.

  • http://www.ctemploymentlawblog.com Dan S.

    Interesting suggestion Dave and certainly reasonable one. But, like the Disney World Characters, there are plenty of adults that enjoy getting their picture taken with Santa too. Should they be denied a picture because one person ruined it?

  • Dave C.

    Maybe. But I’ve thought of a solution that could avoid that discussion. The mall could hire some large elves and install a large slide next to Santa la “A Christmas Story.”
    If anyone misbehaves, it’s down the slide they go.
    http://comedynerd.cellfish.com/video/106073/A-Christmas-Story—Slippery-Santa-Slide

  • http://www.workplacelaw.net workplace-law

    bit of an error being on crutches – if you’re going to sexually abuse Santa, at least make sure you can make a speedy getaway!

  • http://www.ctemploymentlawblog.com/2008/01/articles/hr-issues/blawg-of-the-day/index.html Connecticut Employment Law Blog

    Blawg of the Day!

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