’Tis the season to revive the holiday office party…cautiously; employment law attorney offers 10 tips for employers to keep it professional but fun
Detroit – December 5, 2022 – After two years of pandemic restrictions and ho-hum virtual gatherings, many employees are eager to celebrate the season with a little in-person holiday cheer. But in a year where the hybrid work schedule is commonplace, party planning may require sharing a primer on acceptable office behavior - for both employees and management. Deborah Brouwer, managing partner of management side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer, has advised clients on holiday gathering for years. For 2022, she offers a refresher course - and some new considerations - for corporate holiday parties, with the following 10 tips.
- Senior management and HR representatives from the organization should attend the party, follow all company policies and set an example for the organization in terms of appropriate behavior.
- For colleagues who rarely see each other in the office anymore, hugging is sure to be commonplace, but don’t let things get out of hand. The company’s sexual harassment policy should be reviewed prior to the party—and enforced on the spot if questionable behavior (e.g., excessive hugging and touching) becomes evident.
- Without being Scrooge-like, remind employees that while the holiday party is meant to celebrate the season and/or their contributions from the past year, the event is still a business function and inappropriate behavior may result in discipline, including termination.
- Smile for the camera but be alert to questionable party pictures and social media posts. Remind staff in advance of the celebration that the company’s social media policy still applies at the event, and that actions will be taken against those who don’t follow the spirit of the policy. This may also be a good time to review company social media policies and ensure that photo releases have been signed by staff and are still current.
- If alcohol is served and employees (including interns) under the age of 21 will be present, be sure to implement and follow a “We ID” policy.
- With the legalization of cannabis in several states, clarify how marijuana use will be handled – if not implementing a complete ban on its use. While employees may think it’s ok to use before or during the holiday event because it is ‘off hours,’ they are mistaken; employers have the right to enforce workplace policies on marijuana even when such use is outside the actual workplace.
- For crowd control and better monitoring of party activities, consider limiting parties to employees rather than adding clients and vendors. Also, for riskier activities like ax throwing or rock climbing, understand there may be employer liability, regardless of waivers.
- Consider hosting celebratory events at a breakfast or lunch gathering – or a Monday or Tuesday evening rather than a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night.
- Invite all employees to the party but make it clear that attendance is voluntary. Not everyone celebrates the holidays and employees should not feel pressured to attend.
- Don’t drink and drive should be the mantra. If possible, arrange for transportation in advance for employees who may not be able to drive. Shuttles and car services are an excellent option but can be costly. Consider alternatives, including offering to reimburse employees for ride-hailing services or cab fares.
“This year’s parties will require more thoughtful planning, but employers and employees can both experience memorable events that are worth the effort. Bringing colleagues together for celebratory occasions may be more important now than ever,” Brouwer said.
About Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer PC
Celebrating 30 years in 2022, Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law, workplace investigations, and management consultation and training for private and public sector employers. The firm also provides arbitration and mediation services. Woman-owned and led since its founding, Nemeth Bonnette Brouwer exclusively represents management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes