Workplace Tips for the Holiday Season
Happy Thanksgiving! With the holiday season upon us, we wanted to give you a quick refresher on some tricky workplace issues that are common this time of year. While holiday parties can increase morale and provide an opportunity for team building, without planning and forethought, holiday parties can cause human resources issues that will follow you well into the new year. If you require non-exempt employees to attend a holiday party, you must compensate them for the time they spend there. If the party occurs during normal work hours, non-exempt employees are likely being compensated anyway, but pay is also required for off-hours parties if attendance is mandated. In addition, any mandatory time spent at the party counts as work time for overtime calculation purposes. The simplest way to avoid additional pay obligations, if desired, is to plan parties for non-work hours and to clearly communicate that attendance is optional for non-exempt employees. Sexual Harassment Concerns A few weeks before the party, remind employees about your policies surrounding social events, employee conduct, drinking if alcohol will be served, and sexual harassment. At the event, avoid circumstances that could encourage bad behavior, such as mistletoe and gift exchanges without clear guidelines. In addition, limit the amount of alcohol served by not offering an open bar or by providing employees with a limited number of drink tickets. And of course, if you hear of potential sexual harassment at the event, promptly investigate and, in the event of misconduct, take appropriate responsive action. Workplace Decorations and Religious Symbols Employers may ban all holiday symbols during the season, but if you allow employees of one religion to display religious symbols, you must do so for employees of other faiths. Employers can limit decorations for business-related reasons, so long as any limit is applied equitably to all employees. Employer-Sponsored Religious or Spiritual Events Employers are free to sponsor religious or spiritual events, but employees cannot be required to attend them. Employees who do attend should not be rewarded for doing so and there should not be any adverse actions for not attending. Further, remember that hosting a religious or spiritual event may prompt others to request alternative events for those of other faiths, raising potential equity and accommodation considerations. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help with any tricky situations this holiday season.
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