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Fewer office holiday parties this year, a sign of #MeToo liability fears

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Tis the season not to throw an office holiday party. That's the sentiment of 35 percent of companies surveyed -- the highest tally of corporate party poopers since 2009, when the U.S. economy was barely coming out of recession.

"The number could be due to several factors, including potential liability following the #MeToo movement," said Andrew Challenger, vice president at executive outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, which surveyed 150 human resources representatives across the U.S. in October.

Nearly 27 percent of companies reported a policy of never hosting holiday parties, the highest since the Challenger survey began in 2004. Another 8 percent reported they are not holding a party this year.

Of the companies throwing a holiday bash, nearly 58 percent reported addressing the #MeToo movement with their staff this year. Nearly 40 percent said they had not addressed the issue and had no plans of doing so before their party.

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"The fact that nearly 60 percent of companies that are having parties have real concerns about inappropriate behavior shows that H.R. departments nationwide are responding to this particular issue," Challenger said. 

"In some cases, that response may mean eliminating the holiday party," he added.

The subdued celebration count comes as companies sit on tax savings and generally report thriving business conditions, with 62 percent of those surveyed by the firm saying the economy had improved during the year.

While fewer companies are holding celebrations, those that are plan to spend more on them -- with nearly a quarter reporting increases in their party budgets this year, the highest since 2007, Challenger found.

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