During the holiday season, company holiday parties are a fun way to promote healthy work relationships. However, as alcohol and religious themes often are present, holiday parties may cause many employers and employees anxiety and uncertainty with respect to safety, professionalism and etiquette. Employers and employees should know how to address these issues to avoid legal problems. Below are a few tips to safely and comfortably enjoy your holiday work parties.
Alcohol can increase the likelihood of drunk driving, sexual harassment or a workplace injury. One way employers can try to avoid these risks at company gatherings is to distribute “drink tickets” restricting the number of drinks permitted to each employee. Employers also may restrict the types of alcohol available at the party – for example by only providing beer and wine – to curtail excess inebriation. When choosing a venue, employers should consider access to public transportation or arrange for private transportation to avoid drinking and driving. Finally, all employees consuming alcohol must always be over 21 years old.
Sometimes an employee will choose to not attend the holiday gathering because of personal or religious reasons; employers cannot retaliate against or ostracize employees that do not attend. Additionally, employees may be sensitive to overly religious party themes; therefore, employers must be mindful to keep all workplace gatherings secular and remember their obligation to provide religious accommodation to their employees.
Although parties are a way to socialize and wind down, maintaining professionalism is still important. Whether the party is formal or informal, employee dress and theme party dress codes can raise the potential for sexual harassment and other forms of unlawful or inappropriate behavior. Employers should remind employees that company policies and protocols always apply. One way employers can keep a disciplined and professional atmosphere is to encourage employees to invite their spouses and children.
Employers and employees should always remember to stay professional at workplace gatherings. Troubles can arise when employees do not understand what their behavioral expectations are, don’t let a holiday party negatively impact company morale for the other 364 days of the year.
Contact The Harman Firm, LLP is you believe your rights were violated at a work holiday party.