With all the talk of holiday parties, I began to wonder what policies in a Company’s Employee Handbook set the expectations for how employees are expected to behave at these functions? Invariably, we HR professionals come up against some issue stemming from a holiday party every year. Scenarios include the employee who drinks to much and makes inappropriate comments, the employee too hung-over to do their work the next day or, more seriously, the employee who gets into a fender bender on their way home. It begs the question, are the parties worth it and are our HR policies and Employee Handbook set up to deal with the aftermath?
A good Employee Handbook has the HR policies that promote professional and legal behavior in the workplace. By law many of these policies also apply to behavior outside the office and would apply to the company holiday party. Let’s take a look:
Anti-Harassment & Discrimination Policy – Harassment law protects employees from harassment both in and out of the office. Just because the setting has changed, employees are still bound by the same rules that apply in the office.
Alcohol & Drug Policy – The Alcohol and Drug Use policy prohibits the use of alcohol and non-prescribed drugs while on company business or in the office. Since the holiday party is company sponsored, this policy also applies during the party. That being said, the line gets a little fuzzy when the company provides and serves the alcohol, so keep that in mind if you will be serving alcohol.
Confidential Information – Employees are instructed through the Confidentiality Statement to keep employer information private. This applies at all times in the office and out of the office, even with a few drinks in you and a more relaxed environment.
Non-Violence Policy – Non-Violence Policies prohibit employees from bringing weapons onto company property and engaging in physical contact. Leave the beer muscles at home.
Standards of Conduct – Most Employee Handbooks have a general policy of behaviors that will not be tolerated in the workplace. More often than not, problems stemming from the holiday are due to employees letting down their guard and disrespecting a fellow co-worker. While this disrespect may also toe the line of sexual harassment, it is likely a violation of Company’s Standards of Conduct.
It’s fair to say that the standard Employee Handbook is set up to help manage employees in the face of a party. You may, however, want to remind employees of expected behavior and those policies which are most likely to apply.