Holiday Pitfalls for Employers to Avoid

Mary Moffatt Attorney

Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones, PLLC

Most people are very excited about the approaching holidays, but along with the joy and excitement of the season come a number of headaches and potential problems for employers. Recent movies such as “Office Christmas Party” should be required instructional viewing for employees to see what not to do at the company Christmas party, but issues of concern go beyond the potentially rambunctious party. Here are a few areas of concern employers should be aware of as the season approaches and suggestions for how to deal with them.

First, due to the colder weather, shorter hours of daylight, and the distraction of planning for the holidays, employee production often wanes during the last couple months of the year. Some common causes of the decreased production include online shopping, taking time off to attend children’s school programs, flue and cold seasons, and travel to visit family can cut into the bottom line at a time when businesses are trying to meet year end goals and end on a high note. Educating employees on leave time and internet policies in the months leading up to the holiday season can help employers provide flexibility to employees’ schedules so they can enjoy holiday festivities while also meeting your company’s goals. Also, showing appreciation for the work done all year can help motivate employees to finish the year strong.

Many companies have holiday parties to celebrate the season and reward employees for their hard work and commitment to the company. However, employers need to remind employees of the company’s expectations regarding appropriate behavior. In addition, to ensure that company parties are both fun and safe, employers may want to take steps to limit the amount of alcohol attendees are allowed to consume and make arrangements for ride services to be available for their employees to make sure they make it home safely.

Finally, the main reason the holiday season is so important to many is the religious significance that inspires it. However, not all employees share the same religious beliefs and practices. Consequently, this season is ripe for acts of religious discrimination and retaliation. As a preventative measure, the time before the holiday season is a good time to have employee training on discrimination in the workplace in order to avoid complaints of religious discrimination during what should be the happiest time of the year. If any complaints should arise, employers need to take them seriously and address the complaints appropriately.

There are several other areas of concern for employers that arise during the holiday season and expose employers to potential liability and problems. It is a good idea to seek regular legal counsel to make sure that your employee handbook and policies are up to date to address these issues and any changes in the law that will take effect at the start of the new year.