Here’s a Christmas story out of New Zealand that you likely won’t want to share with the kids.

The New Zealand Herald reports that a laundry worker made a claim that at a Christmas event her boss, dressed as Santa, sexually harassed her by wearing a “graphic and prominent phallic symbol” — a bottle opener appended to his Santa suit. Apparently, female employees urged him to wear the bottle opener. This was only one of many complaints made by the employee against her boss.


The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to which she filed a grievance found that three incidents which she alleged were sexually harassing “were undermined by the evidence, and another incident could not be safely assumed to have occurred.”

The Santa incident, however, was found by the ERA to have taken place, but it was held that “no one took offence at the time, and the incident did not constitute sexual harassment that warranted resignation.” Indeed, the complainant described the boss as having “a reputation as a bit of a joker and women usually responded with laughter.”

As a significant takeaway, the ERA member issued this warning to the company, which US employers should similarly heed:

“Those who gave evidence portrayed it as nothing more than inoffensive skylarking. That is a dangerous approach. What constitutes sexual harassment is normally seen through the eyes of the complainant, hence the onus on an employer to address a complaint when it arises. Having seen photos of this it is easy to conclude someone could have been offended. To continue to condone such behaviour is, in my view, risky and may have adverse future consequences.”