Employers often choose the holiday season to reward employees and celebrate a year of hard work, but such holiday gatherings can present pitfalls.
Deborah Brouwer, a partner at Detroit-based management labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law PC, suggests employers put extra thought into planning their holiday celebrations to make sure everyone remains safe, happy and employed.
“Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated in December, so employers should consider placing the focus on celebrating business successes and milestones that occurred in the past year,” Brouwer said.
Nemeth Law, based in Detroit, specializes in arbitration, mediation, workplace investigations, employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation/training for private and public sector employers. It is the largest woman-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.
Brouwer offers the following guideless and considerations:
• For parties held outside regular office hours, start and end the party early, for example, from 4- 7 p.m., to help prevent employees from over-indulging.
• Inclusion is important, so invite everyone, but make it clear that attendance is voluntary. Not everyone celebrates the holidays, and employees should not feel pressured to attend a party that might offend their religious beliefs.
• Senior management and HR representatives should attend the holiday party, be conspicuously visible and exhibit model behavior.
• Remind employees to never drink and drive. If possible, arrange for transportation in advance in case there are employees who need a ride home. Shuttles and car services are an excellent option, but may be costly. Consider alternatives, including offering to reimburse employees for cab fares or ride-hailing services such as Uber.
• Consider forgoing an off-site evening celebration and instead host a breakfast/lunch event on-site and close the office early. Employees will appreciate getting to leave earlier in the day and the timing eliminates problems that can arise with a late-night party when alcohol is served.
Establish policies for the party and clearly communicate them to both management and employees. Such policies should emphasize moderation and good judgment. Remind employees that while the holiday party is meant to celebrate their contributions from the past year, the event is still a business function and inappropriate behavior may result in discipline.
• Think carefully before sponsoring gift exchanges. Not everyone can afford buying a gift to share, and not everyone has the same sense of humor, so gag gifts can pose problems. Instead, consider a charitable donation, a cookie bakeoff or raffles, with the company providing modest gifts (selected by the HR department, of course!).