As a result of the economic crisis, your company was forced to take a number of cost-cutting actions—including layoffs—that contributed to a sharp decline in the morale of the remaining staff. You would like to do something to reward employees who are left, but is a year-end celebration the answer?
With the holidays quickly approaching and the economy still in a recession, many organizations are cutting back on plans for this year’s festivities. If cost-cutting on celebrations is in the works, employers should be aware of potential pitfalls and take preventative action to avoid legal trouble.
Christopher J. Boman, an employment law expert with Fisher & Phillips, advises employers looking to save a little by cutting back on the traditional holiday celebration to consider these tips:
- Consider the message. If a company has experienced recent layoffs, consider the message of then throwing an extravagant party. Can you justify the celebration costs when foregoing it could have kept a few staff members employed for a few months? The morale of current staff concerned about additional layoffs could also be an issue, as well as the potential for lawsuits from disgruntled former staff that hear about the party expenses.
- Beware if the boss is supplying the booze. If business owners host a party at their home to save cash and are serving alcohol, they should be aware of the personal liability they may face if someone drives off from the party drunk. Arrange for a no-cost taxi service for any employee who feels that he or she should not drive home.
- Be cautious if cutting out the professional bartender. If employers cannot find money in the budget to hire a professional bartender, they should ensure that all employees enjoying alcoholic beverages are at least 21 years of age and should monitor everyone's alcohol consumption.
- Clarify guidelines if hosting the party at work. Hosting a party on company property is not recommended but, if employers do opt for this, they should make sure employees know the party is voluntary and that people aren't working to avoid any confusion about compensation. Also, make sure everyone knows that workplace behavior rules still apply. Finally, transportation should be offered to anyone who may have "overindulged."
- Consider alternative celebrations. Companies may want to consider taking part or all of the money traditionally spent on the holiday party and donating it to charity. The economy has had a dramatic impact on nonprofits, and the generosity could promote the company's reputation within the community. Another option is to consider a company potluck or other event that is still social and fun.
- Avoid offensive "white elephant" gifts. In an attempt to keep a gift-giving tradition inexpensive, companies may encourage staff members to exchange "white elephant" gifts. Remind employees to avoid gifts that could be offensive and spark harassment lawsuits or other issues.
Source: Fisher & Phillips LLP; http://www.laborlawyers.com.