More Companies Are Hosting Festive Events Post-Pandemic, But Remote Workers Who Have Not Personally Interacted with Co-Workers in a While May Cause Problems
With the pandemic lockdown behind us, people are starting to return to the office and more companies are beginning to bring back the traditional holiday party. However, employers need to be concerned about their workers getting too much into the holiday “spirits.” Attorney Steven Mitchell Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer®,” offers suggestions on how companies can minimize litigation that may arise from situations brought on during corporate holiday parties.
The Baton Rouge Clinic cited numerous surveys that show a troubling trend regarding remote workers and alcohol use. The clinic found that one-third of those who worked from home during the pandemic were drinking. Another survey found that nine out of 10 employees still working remotely admitted to drinking alcohol during office hours and approximately 45% said they left the “office” early to grab a drink.
“The lack of personal interaction with fellow co-workers and their use of alcohol on the job may pose problems for companies at holiday parties,” Mr. Sack says. “They may continue to drink profusely and engage in unacceptable and inappropriate behavior around their colleagues.”
To avoid these situations, Mr. Sack advises companies to make the party an alcohol-free event; if alcohol is served, they should hire professional bartenders. “Companies should not have employees volunteer as bartenders,” he says. “They may not know how much their co-workers have had to drink. It is best to hire professional bartenders who know when to stop serving someone who has had too much.” If someone has imbibed too much, Mr. Sack says, the company should also consider offering a car or a rideshare service.
Mr. Sack also advises employers to email workers a “zero tolerance” memo for sexual harassment. “The document should define what constitutes inappropriate behavior and remind workers that anyone who commits sexual harassment before, during, or after the party will be subject to strict penalties, including possible immediate dismissal,” he says.
If photos are taken at the event, Mr. Sack says, they should be tasteful and discreet, especially if they are going to be posted on the company’s social media sites. “Posting photographs that are provocative or embarrassing can be detrimental to the business,” he says. “This is not the kind of publicity any company desires.”
Other tips Mr. Sack offers include:
● Schedule the party when office hours have concluded to avoid claims of failing to pay wages and overtime for hourly workers who attend the function or are required to attend.
● Consider having the event at a location away from, or not affiliated with, the company. This will reduce the risk of theft of company property, trade secrets, or other valuable assets that can go missing at such events.
● Refrain from discussing workplace issues with co-workers or supervisors. This may lead to arguments and bring down the mood during the festivities. Wait until the next workday to address them.
“The holiday season should be a time for celebration,” says Mr. Sack. “However, when rejoicing with colleagues during such festivities, employees should keep these instructions in mind. There is no need to ruin an enjoyable experience with unfortunate incidents that could have been easily avoided.”