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Will a company holiday party lead to employment lawsuits?

On Behalf of | Dec 2, 2021 | Employment |

As an employer, the way you treat your workers determines the culture in your workplace. Trying to maintain positivity and motivation among your workers can be a difficult challenge, and many businesses offer perks in addition to pay and benefits that make their company a great place to work.

Throwing an annual party to celebrate the holidays can give your workers something to look forward to every year. They can enjoy a festive celebration, a meal with co-workers and possibly gifts or a bonus.

Unfortunately, holiday parties can cause problems, including the increased risk of an employee filing a lawsuit against your business. If you celebrate a specific holiday, some workers might feel excluded. Even if you keep the celebration, there could still be legal risks.

Why might holiday parties lead to lawsuits?

Employee and manager misconduct can play a role

A festive party environment can bring out the worst in certain people. They may overindulge in the alcohol provided or become annoying and aggressive and how they interact with other people.

If that behavior crosses the line between merely annoying into outright abuse, the company could face allegations of creating a hostile work environment. Letting certain people misbehave at a company party could plant the seeds for future harassment lawsuits.

Conversations could expose questionable practices

When management and human resources professionals mingle with the rest of the staff, the conversations that result can sometimes be dangerous. An individual could expose their own personal biases or disclose information about other workers. They could also expose inappropriate rules that affect the company’s employment decisions.

Especially if there is a worker fishing for certain information, the topic of conversation could turn to something like recent promotion decisions. Someone admitting that personal bias influenced a major promotion could eventually lead to claims by that worker or the employee affected by the decision.

Do you need to cancel the holiday party?

There are ways for companies to minimize these risks. Offering a holiday party as a luncheon rather than a dinner and choosing not to serve alcohol are both tactics that can minimize the potential for misconduct and oversharing at holiday parties.

Understanding your potential risks as an employer can help you avoid making a mistake despite having the best intentions about creating a positive work environment.