#OfficeXmasParty – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

by Anne Zachritz

I saw the movie "Office Christmas Party" this weekend and was reminded of the many inherent risks associated with office holiday parties.

Most employers have holiday parties, as they can be great for morale; however, employers should prepare to deal with inappropriate behavior to avoid liability.

Most - or all - inappropriate behavior at office holiday parties results from employees overindulging in the holiday spirit.

Regardless of whether holiday parties take place outside of work hours, company-sponsored parties are typically considered “within the course and scope of employment” if the employer “expects” employees to attend, or employees believe they are expected to attend. Parties that are “within the course and scope of employment” subject employers to liability in the areas of equal employment opportunity, worker’s compensation and liability to third parties.

Here are some interesting statistics from various surveys regarding office holiday parties:

  • 20% of employees surveyed admit they have had too much to drink at an office holiday party.

  • 10% of employees surveyed admit drinking so much alcohol that they called in sick the next day.

  • 48% of employees surveyed have gone to work with a hangover after the office party.

  • 28% of employees surveyed revealed their colleagues’ secrets overheard at the office holiday party.

  • 4% of employees surveyed admit saying inappropriate things - to their boss.

  • Almost 25% of female employees surveyed said that their boss made a pass at them at holiday parties.

  • 49% of employees surveyed have expressed willingness to have sex with a co-worker at a holiday party if the opportunity presented itself.

  • 41% of 18-30 year old employees surveyed admitted that they had hooked up with a fellow employee at an office holiday party 

  • 3% (just 3%??) actually had sex with a fellow employee - at the office party.

  • 10% of employees surveyed have received a written or verbal warning because of their behavior at an office Christmas party - and 8% have been fired

Employers can avoid such Christmas party antics – and potential liability - by communicating that work policies still apply, breaking up those lap dances when you see them, leading by example, and by all means, limiting access to a free bar. Lastly, offer to pay for employees’ Uber and Lyft rides home!

#OfficeChristmasParty #OfficeXmasParty #HoHoUhOh #eeoc

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