Christmas parties and not getting sued
- December 9, 2016
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As the Christmas party season approaches we wish goodwill and cheer to all men and women. However, we must also say that it is the Christmas period and in particular Christmas parties that can cause the most headaches for employers.
At Christmas parties the drink can run free and with it the inhibitions, repressed emotions and anger that have been bubbling under the surface for the previous 364 days.
This can be a dangerous time for employers as in certain circumstances they can be liable for the actions of their employees. At best this can mean having to start the New Year with disciplinary hearings and at worst the employer can find themselves in the crosshairs of a solicitor seeking compensation for the injured and aggrieved employee.
Whereas 20 or 30 years ago what may well have passed for Christmas party shenanigans may now be described as a hate crime or sexual assault. Fortunately we are long past, one would hope, the lecherous boss chasing the young secretary around with a sprig of mistletoe. However such idiocy can run deep, and it is this kind of behaviour that can lead to trouble.
For instance, we have in the past acted for a young woman who was subjected to a sexual assault by a colleague. In this instance a rather refreshed manager, whilst at a work’s sponsored conference, forced his way into the woman’s hotel room and after several unsuccessful advances grabbed her by the breast. The cost to his employers, taking account of compensation and solicitors’ costs was in the region of £45,000.
As well as sexual assault, physical assault may also give rise to liability for the employer. Again if there is sufficient proximity of cause between the nature of the employment and the assault, the employer may find themselves vicariously liable.
We are not saying that all works parties descend into a Bacchanalian fist fight, however there is no harm in advising your staff that even though it is a works do and out of office hours, they are still regarded as employees and must behave accordingly. You may also consider other steps are appropriate – is it really necessary to have triple Jägerbombs as a starter? I jest, however some works ‘dos’ are more alcohol-based than others and without wishing to generalise it is the more alcohol-based events that tend to be the more problematic.
There is no need to cancel your office party or to hold it in the local library, we are simply saying be aware of the possible pitfalls and take the necessary steps to obvious trouble.
Wishing you all a Merry and Litigious Free Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.