The Dangers of Holiday PartiesNov 08, 2023
Holiday parties, inappropriate behavior and lawsuits- what could go wrong?
It’s that time of year again and holiday office parties are in full swing. A more relaxed and informal work environment combined with a few cocktails typically results in harassment claims against the company.
This is the time of year when employment lawyers see an increase in lawsuits.
Even though it’s a festive time, it’s important for employers to remind employees, managers and executives of the workplace policies and importance of maintaining professionalism at holiday events.
Here is the typical scenario (and fact patter based one of my prior cases where I defended a very well known company with over 20,000 employees):
The Company sponsors a holiday party where 1 drink ticket is provided to each employee
A few employees leave the party and go to a second location. Although the second location is not “company sponsored,” a few managers are in attendance and a few people feel they are required to join. Everyone has 2 drinks.
The party continues into the night and the group moves to a third location. Managers are still in attendance. Everyone has 2 more drinks.
A Manager (now 5 drinks in) is impaired, makes inappropriate comments and gestures and suggests an Uber back to his apartment… you see where this is headed.
Employee feels uncomfortable, feels threatened when she declines his advances, takes a video of manager’s inappropriate actions on her phone and calls the police.
Employee files a lawsuit and the company is forced to spend substantial defense costs.
There are ways to limit and possibly eliminate this type of risk and liability to businesses. Employers need to reach out to employment counsel to discuss policies and practices and take proactive steps to comply with the employment laws.
Employment lawyers who have dealt with similar cases- what else would you add regarding risks related to holiday parties?
Have we met? I’m a Florida employment lawyer & HR Consultant, workplace investigator and workplace trainer on HR and employment laws. I help my clients navigate tricky workplace situations and comply with employment laws through legal advice, customized trainings and preparation of policies and legal documents.
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This is not legal advice. All identifying information has been redacted.
The Wannos Law Firm, P.A. provides legal advice to Florida businesses. Karly Wannos is a workplace investigator for claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation, Florida employment law mediator and provides training to businesses on employment laws.
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