Once again the holiday season is here, with office parties galore, and the scolds are back to put a damper on the fun. Or put another way, the prudent advisers are back to encourage you to have fun without the years-long hangover that an employment lawsuit will bring to those who indulge too much or too freely.
It goes without saying that an office party is considered a work-related function, so that all work-related rules, policies and practices that are in place to shield you from lawsuits alleging discrimination, harassment and other related problems SHOULD CARRY OVER TO THE OFFICE PARTY. It is as simple as that, or as difficult.
Otherwise sensible, reasonable and well trained people can get carried away when under the influence of that devil egg nog. And they can do things that they know, in more sober times, is impermissible.
By all means have fun and encourage a collegial and merry party. That alone is an important part of employment. But, to keep it brief, make sure that you let all employees and managers know in advance that you will not tolerate behavior at the party that would be considered harassing behavior in the office. Moreover, note that over indulgence will not be considered a valid excuse.
Have at least one manager there who remains sober, to keep an eye on behavior (or, perhaps, a family member who will be the designated scold). Let everyone know that what could be seen as consensual intimate behavior (or what may very well be, in fact, consensual intimate behavior), in other venues and at other times can lead to claims of harassment the next day. Too much alcohol consumption is a danger, and close dancing can lead to tomorrow’s complaint of an unwanted touching. Above all, remind everyone that they are adults and that a party atmosphere with unchecked drinking may result in out of control behavior and the loosening of otherwise normal day-to-day self-restraint which can have very serious undesirable workplace consequences.
With that reminder of the real world that awaits tomorrow, try to still have fun. It CAN be done!