Earlier in the year I wrote a post here about the dangers of holiday parties for employees. It’s that time of year when the holiday party/christmas party/whatever party happens. The holiday party can be a great opportunity for employees to embarrass themselves or injure their career. A former employer of mine used to throw a large holiday party with free beer and wine. Managers had to talk to employees about how actions could be a “career limiting move” or a “career ending move”. If you wanted to understand “career limiting move” just remember what those managers did at last year’s party. It wasn’t quite a Mad Men Christmas party but there was plenty of debauchery and grist for the rumor mill.
If you’re an employee attending a holiday party this year, I strongly advise you to review the recommendations in the post linked at the top of this post. If your party is this weekend, you should also be mindful of the added dangers of the icy winter storm rolling through for driving to and from the party. That goes double if you are drinking. Consider staying at a nearby hotel or taking a taxi home.
Employers can also get themselves in some hot water with these holiday parties, too. Too much free flowing alcohol, especially if the employer is providing it, can expose the company to liability for injuries to the employees or other people, as well as property damage. There is also an issue with employment discrimination when employers try to force employees to attend the party and push a religious Christmas message through the party. People talk about taking the Christ out of Christmas and point to the “holiday party” instead of the “Christmas party” as an example. That’s not the reason for the name change. The problem is that a religious, Christmas party invites claims of religious discrimination against those who do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.
A “holiday party” is not excluding Christians, rather it is inclusively inviting all people to celebrate the season. An employer may have people who do not celebrate Christmas or do not celebrate it as a holy day. Even some Christians do not celebrate the day as a holy day. Offering a party is not by itself going to reach the legal standard for employment discrimination; but when you tie a religious-themed party to employment by requiring attendance then you can create employment discrimination. The bigger issue is the discrimination liability with the employer sponsoring a religious-themed party and requiring attendance.
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