As we all know, alcohol and employment don’t mix. Some employees consider the annual holiday party to be their chance to be naughty! Don’t think it could happen with your team Think again. Connect2Law.com reports that office Christmas parties result in several pitfalls, citing the following research:
- Colleagues fight at one out of every two parties.
- Sexual harassment occurs at one out of every three parties.
- Employees have accidents at one out of every five parties.
- At more than one half of all holiday parties, an employee passionately kisses a boss or colleague.
To avoid embarrassing mishaps and resulting COBRA conundrums, clarify the rules of social engagement BEFORE your next office party!
- Let employees know what kinds of behavior are unacceptable. Remind them of policies and procedures, and consequences of noncompliance.
- Promote responsible alcohol consumption. Be cautious about how you provide alcohol, keeping drunk driving and the potential for liability in mind. Consider a safe-ride-home program and have taxis or other forms of transportation available.
- Welcome all types of guests and partners.
- Be respectful of different customs and religious affiliations and make sure no one feels required to attend.
- Identify and eliminate potential safety hazards at the party venue.
- Don’t hang mistletoe!
- Respond to any incidences quickly and adhere to the published policies and procedures.
- If the office is open the next day, let employees know in advance that they are expected to come to work as usual and they should manage their evening with that goal in mind.
If an employee is terminated for being naughty at the holiday party, is that employee eligible for COBRA?
The answer is maybe. If the employee’s conduct is considered “gross misconduct” he or she would not be eligible for COBRA. According to the Employee Benefits Legal Blog, the term “gross misconduct” generally refers any action that is intentional, deliberate, extreme, reckless or in deliberate indifference to the employer’s interests. In addition, the employer has the burden of establishing that the termination was for gross misconduct. Finally, the terminated employee and any potential beneficiaries must be notified that COBRA is not being offered due to termination for misconduct. Participants can appeal the determination that COBRA is not available. Of course, careful documentation of the employee’s behavior, the resulting termination and the unavailability of COBRA Coverage notice are essential.
So, when you’re making your party list and checking it twice,
Realize that your employees may be naughty –not nice.
Announce policies and procedures and plan with care.
With above tips in mind, enjoy a festive affair!