The holidays are over. How did you fare? As we have noted previously, holiday times can create some tricky situations, especially when it comes to office partying. Considering that 2015 with all its holidays is upon us, and that office social events may not be limited to celebrations just around those times, perhaps it might be a good time to revisit the issue in a bit more depth.
The crux of the problem is that office parties present us with what amounts to a juxtaposition of social constructs that have a way of butting up against each other. This is not just the case in Washington, D.C.
On the one hand, work is the place where professionalism and a certain level of decorum tend to be expected. Parties, on the other hand, rather suggest a loosening of social restraint. It's an idea that is often fed by the fact that alcohol flows and inhibitions fall. That is a recipe for situations that can become not just awkward, but outright illegal. When such situations arise, it's important to understand and protect your rights.
Depending on the specific circumstances, there could be more at stake than just trying to avoid the embarrassment of office chatter. Too often, the mix of men, women and alcohol can lead to inappropriate interactions. It doesn't take much for things to go awry. Sexual harassment complaints might lead to someone being fired, possibly sparking charges of wrongful termination.
As attorneys with deep experience in this area of law, we have come to anticipate a higher-than-usual number of calls around the holidays related to delicate matters that need discrete resolution. But as the new year begins, it might good to remember that work socializing is not likely to be limited to just the holidays around Christmas and New Years.
Think about it.
Source: National Post, "Rough night at the office: Attending the workplace holiday party, minus an awkward hangover," Ellen McCarthy, The Washington Post, Dec. 16, 2015