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Inclusion: Always in Season

With the holiday season in full swing, many companies will be gathering employees to celebrate the year past and toast to success in the one ahead. When planning such parties—whether around the holidays or any time of year—it is important to make sure all employees, including employees with disabilities, can join in the festivities.

To help, this checklist from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) outlines steps to take before, during and after an event, ranging from asking about accommodation needs in advance to selecting an accessible venue to providing quiet spaces for attendees who may need them.

Of course, a common feature of holiday gatherings and other social events is food and drink, so food allergies should be taken into consideration. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers guidance on food allergies, including various scenarios and solutions. In addition, if alcohol is served, have plenty of non-alcoholic options available, and if attendance is required (for instance, if the party is held during compensable time), it is important to provide flexibility for employees who have or are in recovery from alcoholism to not attend. The option to not attend social events where alcohol is present may be considered a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

During the holidays or any time of year, social gatherings offer an opportunity to show appreciation for employees' hard work. With thoughtful planning, they can also reinforce a company's commitment to inclusion—which is always in season.