HOLIDAY PARTY SURVIVAL 101 « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Keep in Your Lane Idiot

If an office seeks to pull off an in-person 2020 year-ending holiday gathering  party (survival celebration?), pandemic social distancing is but the newest element in the planning and execution.  Management must ensure such gatherings serve to acknowledge production and promote team morale, not to spiral out-of-bounds into an otherwise preventable harassment incident or worse.

Some DO’s and DON’Ts:

DO:  Consider whether the prevailing COVID-19 restrictions and common sense dictate having an in-person event in the first place;

DO:  If such planning is to proceed, design a super-spreader free celebration that includes workplace-appropriate acknowledgment and team building and minimizes the prospect for unwelcome, inappropriate conduct.  For example, a luncheon rather than an evening party may diminish opportunity for unwanted romantic advances and other improper conduct;

DO:  Provide advance dress code guidelines appropriate to the workplace, e.g., outfits not likely to be insulting or offensive to other races, cultures, religions, etc.;

DO: Make it clear that participation is voluntary; and

DO: Enforce guidelines as needed during the event, for instance directing an offending employee to leave.


DON’T:  Permit any supervisor, manager, or executive to behave inappropriately. Leaders must set the example for appropriate behavior;

DON’T:  Ignore any instance of  off-color banter or other offensive behavior. Inaction is akin to condoning such conduct, significantly increasing the chances of a harassment claim; and

DON’T: Allow alcohol consumption.  Management otherwise lowers its ability to reasonably maintain the event’s intended professional demeanor while increasing company exposure to liability for a drink-fueled offender’s conduct. If alcohol is to be available, provide advance guidelines to prevent any inappropriate or unfortunate incident. The HR-advising firm Employers Council has published some relevant points.

See also:

The Boundaries of Holiday Office Gatherings (November 22, 2017)

Holiday Parties – Harassment Hotbed (November 20, 2013)

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

Tim Bowles

November 27, 2020