‘Tis the Season … to Listen to Your HR Folks

“It is important for employers to consider the variety of issues that may need to be addressed this holiday season, such as what sort of seasonal and holiday decorating will be permitted, how to address requests from employees to take time off work for religious observances and what steps will be taken to reduce incidents and liability at company holiday parties. While employers do not need to avoid celebrating the holidays altogether, preventive planning can go a long way toward avoiding holiday problems.” (From Avoiding Holiday Liability by Snell & Wilmer L.L.P.) 

It’s that time of year again, but your human resources team may well have visions of lawsuits, not sugarplums, dancing through their heads.  For your reference, here’s a roundup of legal updates that illustrate why you should listen to HR this holiday season:

What About Those Holiday Parties? (Warner Norcross & Judd – Michigan Employment Law):

“… while it may be too early to put up the holiday decorations, it is not too early to start thinking about that old office tradition, the Holiday Party. And for HR people that means thinking about how you are going to keep the company out of trouble when one of your valued employees has a bit too much of the old holiday cheer.” Read more»

Let the Holiday Festivities Begin – But Be Cautious in Your Workplace! (Akerman Senterfitt):

“It is that time of year again when the holidays are here and the planning of festivities is underway. Yet, it is a time when all human resource professionals and members of management should consider the appropriate guidelines for holiday parties.” Read more»

Seven Legal Survival Tips for Your Office Holiday Party Asset Protection (Ike Devji): 

“This week marks the traditional start of the holiday party season for many businesses and most readers will attend multiple holiday parties and perhaps even host one or more… [E]mployee liability is a major issue that we are always trying to be proactive about. Most employment liability centers around a lack of clear rules and procedures and perhaps most importantly, a set of well enforced behavioral expectations that they support.” Read more»

Employment Law Alert — November 2011 (Ruskin Moscou Faltischek):

“As the holiday season nears, many companies are in the process of planning and hosting their annual holiday parties… Holiday parties are a good opportunity for employees to socialize with supervisors and managers on a more personal level and to build their reputation and network within the Company. Unfortunately, holiday parties can also be fraught with pitfalls for employers. Read more»

Holiday “Volunteer” Services Might Be FLSA Employment (Fisher & Phillips LLP): 

“The holiday spirit moves many to volunteer for activities of a benevolent nature. An organization to which such individuals donate services should consider the possibility that they might be ‘employees’ under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Getting this wrong could result in liability for back-wages, child-labor penalties, and other remedies.” Read more»

Calculating FMLA Leave for Holidays, Breaks and Plant Shut Downs (Franczek Radelet P.C.): 

“’Tis the season already, as I am starting to receive telephone calls from employers with questions about how they calculate an employee’s FMLA leave during a holiday week or when the employer is closed for a period of time (e.g., winter break for schools, plant shut down).”  Read more»


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