Office holiday party stories are legendary--and for good reason. Festive attire, dim lighting, party music, and adult beverages can lead directly to sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits. Keith Clouse, a Dallas employment lawyer who advises employers on personnel matters, shares these ideas for avoiding legal liability.
1. An employer’s duty to protect its employees from sexual harassment extends to a company-sponsored event, so an employer should remind employees that the same policies that apply at work apply at the party.
2. An employer should implement a well-designed party plan. Instead of asking employees to wear “sparkly chic attire” or “cocktail wear,” an employer should recommend that employees wear “business casual” attire. The employer should keep the lighting brighter than normal and hire an entertainer who offers a clean show.
3. An employer should serve alcohol with caution, utilize ways to curtail overindulgence, and be prepared to handle an employee who has overindulged.
4. An employer may wish to open the invitation to employees’ spouses and partners. Their presence can change the party’s atmosphere.
5. An employer should take any complaints of inappropriate conduct seriously. An employer should investigate and discipline in the same way the employer would investigate and discipline had the incident occurred during working hours.
This article is presented by the Dallas employment attorneys at Clouse Dunn LLP. To speak to an employment lawyer about workplace employment matters, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (214) 239-2705.