Holiday Season Office Party That’s Nice, Not Naughty

Workplace celebrations for end-of-year holidays can build teamwork and morale if properly planned and managed. Here are some suggested do’s and don’ts so your festivities will be a rousing success and not a human resources nightmare.

DO: Start by evaluating what type of events best fit your company’s culture, but remember that even if you have staff that say they prefer naughty to nice, you should not promote or permit behavior that is harassing.

DO:  Determine how to celebrate the holidays in ways that minimize opportunity for unwanted romantic advances and other improper conduct, such as workplace-appropriate team building games and activities or a luncheon (and not a night party).

DO: Make participation in your celebration voluntary. Respect employees who do not wish to take part.

DO: Provide advance guidelines for appropriate dress, including examples of inappropriate clothing such as skimpy outfits and those likely to be insulting or offensive to other races, cultures, religions, etc.

DO: If needed, apply discipline, such as sending an employee home to change if dressed inappropriately for the workplace.

DON’T: Allow supervisors to behave inappropriately. Supervisors and managers must be role models and set the example.

DON’T: Look the other way if an employee is being harassed in some way. Such activities can lead to a harassment claim against management if managers stand by and do nothing.

DON’T: Allow alcohol consumption. Your company can be liable for physical injuries incurred or sexual harassment committed by a person served alcohol at a company-sponsored party, whether on or off the job or on or off company premises. If you decide nevertheless to serve alcohol or have a bar available for those who wish to purchase drinks, provide advance guidelines for what is considered appropriate. Please also see other best practices recommendations in our 2010 blog, Office Holiday Survival Guide.

For further information this holiday season, please contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth, and Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin

November 16, 2016

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