12 Dec Party Time! Legal Considerations for Company Holiday Parties
by Jessica N. Childress
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are a great time to spread cheer throughout your organization and celebrate the end of another year. Holiday parties are typically the place where these celebrations occur. Although holiday parties are generally joyous occasions, organizations’ managers and employees should be aware of things to consider when hosting and attending company parties.
1. Don’t Require Employees to Attend Holiday Parties
It would be wonderful to have all employees attend a company-wide holiday party. The more, the merrier. However, requiring employees to attend holiday parties that occur outside of normal working hours can present legal issues for employees who are not exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if these employees are not paid time and half (i.e. overtime pay) to attend the party. Under the FLSA, organizations must pay non-exempt employees at a rate of at least time and a half of the employee’s regular rate of pay for hours that the employee works in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Requiring attendance at company holiday parties may trigger this requirement for non-exempt employees. Organizations should consider including a note in party invitations that attendance is optional.
2. Don’t Get Too Merry During Party Conversations
Holiday parties create a relaxed atmosphere, which is great for getting to know colleagues on a more personal level. However, all employees should stay away from topics that are too personal, such as political conversations and inappropriate conversations about employees’ interpersonal relationships. These conversations can quickly become offensive and result in a violation of company policies and employment laws. Employees should be reminded prior to the party that the company’s code of conduct is in effect during the party.
3. Choose Your Plus One Wisely
Plus ones are ultimately a reflection of the employee. If you know that your plus one is prone to making offensive comments that might embarrass you or your company, perhaps, your plus one should sit this one out. If you bring a guest to your holiday party, remind your guest to be respectful of your colleagues and company policies. Your guest’s behavior is a reflection on you.
4. Be Inclusive in Your Organization’s Invitation
Consider using inclusive language in your holiday party invitations. Solely mentioning the celebration of one holiday, such as Christmas, excludes those celebrating holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Moreover, only allowing employees to invite their husbands or wives as plus ones leaves out a whole class of employees who might have potential guests to bring to the party that are not their husbands or wives. Unmarried employees in partnerships and employees who just want to bring a friend to the party should feel welcome to bring a guest who is not his or her husband or wife.
Keep your invitations holly, jolly, and inclusive! Now go celebrate the end of the year with your team, and happy holidays from the Childress Firm PLLC!
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This publication discusses legal developments, which are intended for informational and educational purposes only. The information contained in this publication is not intended as legal advice, and it should not be constructed as legal advice.