We are in the midst of the holiday season. As the holidays roll by, businesses everywhere are having their year-end holiday parties. Millions of people everywhere are going to restaurants, bars, and banquet halls to mix and mingle, to celebrate victories, and to close out the year. With these celebrations, often times there’s alcohol being served and consumed.
Some people dread the holiday office parties: the socializing, the drinking, and dancing. Others love the holiday office parties: the socializing, the drinking, and dancing. No matter the camp in which an employee resides, it is the hope that employees are attending these parties responsibly. After all, the holiday office party is still a work event.
The office party is not a place for employees to forget the rules against unlawful discrimination and harassment. The office party is not a free-for-all. It is not “Vegas Baby,” where “everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Instead, the aftermath of an office holiday party gone wrong can come with significant consequences, giving new meaning to “out with old, in with the new” in 2023.
A bad holiday party when exiting 2022, can mean holiday party liability when entering 2023.
Some people handle their liquor well. They drink responsibly. Others may not do so well with spirits. They may overindulge leading them to behave in ways they should not when they are around their coworkers. Employers take this risk when gathering large groups of people. Risks are multiplied when those large groups are provided alcohol. Controlling employee behavior amongst a smaller group of employees may be much simpler and less risky that an event where hundreds of employees are in attendance.
Employees should know that whether it is in the office or outside the office, they should not be made to suffer unlawful discrimination or harassment.
The holiday party may be a time where some employees start speaking about religious beliefs and practices. An employee or group of employees may then erroneously think it is okay to criticize someone else’s religious beliefs or treat another employee differently because of their religion.
The holiday party and alcohol may give an employee courage to say every discriminatory thing they’ve thought about other races, religions, women, or a subordinate to whom they secretly didn’t want to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability.
The holiday party and alcohol may result in employees forgetting important things like laws against sexual harassment and the consent requirement. There may be a supervisor flirting with his or her subordinate, another employee groping a team