With the arrival of the holiday season, there will be events and issues which employers and employees should think about in advance. If you attend a work holiday party, it is extremely important to remember to exhibit the same good judgment and discretion that you exhibit at work. While the party is a time to relax and socialize with your co-workers, including superiors and subordinates, it is certainly not a time to over-indulge in alcohol. It is important to remember that your co-workers will be watching and you have the potential to lose a great deal of respect and perhaps even your job if you allow alcohol to lead you to inappropriate behavior.
A company should act prudently to ensure that people do not get intoxicated at the company party and then get behind the wheel of an automobile. Make sure that there are lots of non-alcoholic drinks available. Providing taxi service might be a sensible option if alcohol is to be served. The loss of a good employee from alcohol-related injuries or criminal charges is a high price for a holiday event. Keep in mind that if the company serves alcohol to an intoxicated party patron, the company might be liable for any damage to others caused by the patron’s drunk driving.
During the holiday season, it is also important for co-workers exhibit respect for other’s religious beliefs. This certainly includes employers attempting to reasonably accommodate an employee’s legitimate requests for worship on a particular religious holiday. It is incumbent on the employee to give as much advance notice as possible to the employer and to be prepared to support the contention that the request is truly based upon religious reasons.
A final note to employers who may be considering terminating an employee’s employment because of a long-standing performance problem. Providing an employee a clear, final warning with a deadline in January often makes much more sense than terminating an employee during the holiday season. This not only helps to sustain employee morale during the holidays but also is consistent with three general concepts to consider in dealing with personnel; fairness, diligence, and dignity. Giving an employee a clear, final written warning about a long-standing performance problem (rather than a serious act of misconduct) fits both into the concepts of fairness and diligence. It would be more difficult for an employee to claim that the performance-based reason for being terminated was pretextual and that the real reason for termination was for some prohibited purpose when that employee had been given the chance to meet the employer’s clearly expressed expectations but did not. Finally, the more dignity and respect you show an employee before terminating his employment, the less likely he is to pursue a legal claim which, meritless or not, can be costly to the company in legal fees and in lost productivity.
J. Daniel Marr is a Director and Shareholder at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. His legal practice includes counseling businesses and individuals on a variety of legal issues and advocating on their behalf. Attorney Marr is licensed and practices in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Attorney Marr can be reached at [email protected].