Russell Cawyer, an attorney in Fort Worth, maintains an excellent employment law blog focusing on employer issues. Each winter he reposts a link to his list of key topics for employers to avoid creating bad situations at holiday parties. In light of his highly informative wish list for employers I wanted to write a complementary wish list for employees to avoid the common pitfalls of the holiday party. If you believe you have an employment claim from a holiday party then you should contact employment lawyers right away.
Employment law problems at holiday parties in Texas
If you work at a company that hosts holiday parties, I probably do not have to tell you how…interesting things can get. People drink too much, get too loose, make sexual advances at each other and sometimes wake up in precarious situations. These parties are meant for people to relax and have a good time but as Mr. Cawyer points out, the holiday party is not Vegas. What happens at the holiday party doesn’t stay at the holiday party. In my pre-lawyer days I worked for a company that hosted a generous party with reasonable limitations on alcohol.
Of course, this did little to prevent bad decisions. The company even instructed managers to remind employees that how you behave at the party could affect your job. It took the seriousness out of the message when my boss got wasted and another manager got drunk, climbed on the stage and then fell off, got up and gave an emphatic “Woooooo!” paired with a victory pose. These things happen.
The next day was a flurry of gossip over who was hung over, who did what at the after-parties and who did who. Immature, yes, but an unavoidable consequence of enjoying the party a little too much.
Here are some tips to help you avoid negatively affecting your job at the holiday party
1. Limit alcohol consumption: Obvious, I agree. However, we all know how easy it is to go one drink too many and then end up five drinks too many. Monitor your intake and ration out your drinking to one drink every X time period. Alcohol consumption is the source of the vast majority of everything that can go wrong at the party. At a minimum, take your drinking to the after-party at a different location where your boss isn’t watching.
2. Don’t use it as an opportunity to hook up: Holiday parties are a notorious source of office gossip. It is inevitable that people develop attraction for coworkers, given how much time they spend together during the work week, and once you put them all in a relaxed environment with alcohol, those attractions can turn into more than harmless flirting at the water cooler. Secret relationships between coworkers tend to become obvious. And some people just make bad decisions after a few too many drinks.
Eventually, everybody finds out who went home with who, who made out at the party or after-party, etc. Not only is it likely you will create an awkward situation the next day at work (that may last for a while) you might develop some animosity from people who wanted to hook up with the same person. People can be petty; you never know when that might come back around to impair your career.
Additionally, since you are at an employer event, your sexual advances can be unwelcomed and may be reported. Even though you might be off work premises and off the clock, it is still sexual harassment and you could end up being disciplined, seriously hurt your opportunities for advancement, or even be fired.
3. Take the opportunity to network: Not as exciting as doing shots at the bar all night, but the party is a great opportunity to mingle with people you may not normally have access to, especially if you work for a large company. Since most career opportunities are about who you know and being at the right place at the right time, why not take advantage of such an easy opportunity? Plus, if you are spending your time trying to rub elbows with the big shots, you are less likely to drink as much.
4. If you drink too much, take a taxi home: This is always great advice, but there is a special significance here. It is possible you will make your employer liable for any damage or injuries you cause to other people on your intoxicated drive home. Most likely if this happens, your job is over. So you risk getting arrested, getting seriously injured or killed, getting sued and losing your job. Not a great situation.
5. Think before you speak: You might feel more relaxed in a less professional setting, especially with the aid of alcohol, which might cause you to let slip confidential information – either the employer’s or co-workers’ – that might impair your job or relationship with your co-workers.
6. The holiday party is not a nightclub: Even if the party is at a nightclub, don’t treat it like one. No jello shots. No showing off on how many shots you can do in a row. And no grinding up on co-workers. No pole dancing. No making it rain. And no overly provocative attire. No glowsticks. No doing lines of coke off the back of the toilet in the bathroom. Save it for the club on your own time (ok, don’t do that last one at all).
7. Don’t talk work all night: Have (responsible) fun! Nobody wants to hang out with the guy or gal who brought the office to the party.
The summation of advice I can offer is don’t drink too much and don’t be too inappropriate. Everybody knows they should follow this advice; but when you are two hours into the party, it gets easy to have one drink too many – that becomes several too many – and behavior becomes too relaxed.
Employment lawyers in Texas
Employment lawyers in Texas represent clients in labor and employment law claims. A holiday party may be responsible for claims for sexual harassment, sex discrimination and other serious employment law claims. If you believe you have an employment law claim you should contact employment lawyers right away. Many employment law claims have short time periods in which you must act to protect your claim. You may also have to take specific steps to preserve your claims.