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Respectful WorkplaceDecember 15, 2021by Todd StantonHow to keep your office holiday party from going off the rails, Part 2

‘Tis the season for holiday parties. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced offices to cancel gatherings in 2020, many companies will express their gratitude to employees for the first time in two years.

Between free alcohol, lots of mingling, and sometimes a destination venue, festivities can easily drift across legal boundaries. The last thing companies need are lawsuits that turn fun celebrations into business nightmares.

Here are our final two best practices that limit your company’s risk and prevent the office holiday party from going off the rails. If you missed our first three tips, go back and check out Part 1.

  1. Pay your employees for attending

It is nearly impossible to make a holiday gathering completely voluntary. Indeed, because employees often feel compelled to attend because of the implied understanding of their work reputation, the law will almost certainly consider the event to be compensable time. Companies open themselves up to FLSA violations, large Department of Labor penalties, and damages, if they fail to pay employees for attending a (what-will-be-alleged-to-have-been-a), required event. 

You may help avoid wage and hour claims by simply holding the party during regular business hours, while the employees, presumably, are on the clock, anyway.  As noted last time, workday celebrations are less likely to become rowdy, are easier to end on time, and can help companies demonstrate their commitment to the camaraderie-building aspects of the event.

  1. Be aware of religious sensitivities

This is a special time for many employees who recognize religious celebrations during this season. Emotions are heightened as employees reflect on what inspires their personal value and purpose.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate held religious beliefs.

Managers and supervisors need to be aware that religious issues can be complex and sensitive. You do not have to remove all religious traditions, nor celebrate every element of every denomination. You do need to be mindful that each employee might not celebrate the same way at your holiday gathering. Being mindful of diverse beliefs will help your employees feel respected for who they are and what they believe.

Along with our first three tips, setting clear boundaries can make your team feel celebrated in a safe way and can be a greater win for everyone. If you would like more information about how to limit your risks, protect your business, and make more informed decisions, schedule a consultation with one of our business-minded attorneys today.

Happy Holidays!