David Gibson

Member Article

Party time swings around

Well it is party season and it is fair to say that this is a very busy time for employment lawyers. Frustrations, angst and budding office romances seem to collide with aheady concoction of alcohol and a chance of a boogie woogie on the salubrious dance floors of the North East to create mayhem.

It is always good to get people together and let their hair down (although for the Tipster this is a very difficult task given his follicly challenged status) but at the same time employers should be aware that they are exposing themselves to potential litigation.

Crikey - those lawyers they sure do know how to dampen the party but let’s be honest exposure to claims for sexual harassment or having to deal with dismissal situations where, for example, fights have broken out is not what you want to be doing on Christmas Eve.

The best way forward is as follows:-

• Remind people in advance (preferably by email) that the company wants people to have a fun time but at the same time they must act responsibly.

• Warn of the dangers of excessive consumption of alcohol - it’s easier to fall over after two Babychams! And A & E is not a fun place at this time of the year.

• Make sure that there is a general “no touching” policy. Often it is the case (and I am afraid to say it is usually the chaps) seem to think that after four pints of lager they suddenly look like George Clooney. Consequently all the women in the room will suddenly think that they are in the presence of George Clooney. This can lead to unwanted advances taking place that can give rise to complaints of sexual harassment. It is common ground that office parties can be seen to still be “in the course of employment” and therefore employers can be responsible for the acts of employees.

• Make sure that if one person or a group of people is/are getting rowdy, and it looks like trouble, that senior management move in to defuse the situation and possibly ensure that there are some early taxis to take the boisterous element home!

• If any incidents do take place then it is imperative that employers act promptly and gather as much evidence as they possibly can. Incidents of sexual harassment/fighting, etc, must be taken very seriously.It is also imperative that senior management act in a way which is not going to embarrass their position in the company going forward!

•After all that - have fun, be merry but be safe.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by David Gibson .

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