It's that most horrid time of the year: time for office holiday parties. Since some of you are likely going to have to contact someone like me after you get fired for what happened at your office party, I would like to remind you about how to stay employed despite the office festivities.
Here is my warning about the top behaviors that will get you fired at your office holiday party:
1. Drinking: First of all, if you are an alcoholic and can't be sure you won't drink if you attend, then don't go. If your boss is insistent, you can ask for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act to be excused from attendance. If you do drink, limit yourself to two drinks tops, then switch to soda. I'm serious here. The number one way to get fired is to drink too much.
2. Dancing: Many people are fired or disciplined for "inappropriate" dancing. What's inappropriate? It's in the eye of the beholder, and the boss, customers, vendors and your coworkers are the beholders. When in doubt, sit it out. Any moves that imitate sexual conduct (grinding, gyrating, rubbing) are dangerous if colleagues are present. If you're dancing with a colleague, then be very careful. You don't need a sexual harassment complaint in the new year.
3. Driving: A DUI can get you fired. If you don't believe me, check out my article 9 Ways A DUI Can Destroy Your Career. If a colleague or friend tells you to hand over your keys, do it. There's always Uber or a taxi. It's way cheaper than defending against a DUI/DWI charge and losing your job.
4. Mistletoe: Kiss your spouse or date under the mistletoe, but not a colleague or, god forbid, your boss. Seriously.
5. Romance: After a few drinks, colleagues start to look pretty attractive. Office romances are dangerous. If you have a one-night-stand or party makeout session with a coworker (or worse, the boss), expect repercussions at work. Sure, many couples meet at work. My parents did. But tread carefully. No means no. If you break up, stay away and don't retaliate. Persistence does not pay in an office relationship. You can get fired for sexual harassment if you pester a coworker for a date. Don't accept the invitation to the colleague's room. If there's a real romance, take it slow and be sure before you take it between the sheets.
6. Pressure: Don't pressure anyone to attend an office party. They may have religious objections to attending. Maybe their disability prevents them from coming, or they have a spouse with a disability. You don't want to get charged with religious or disability harassment.
7. Games: Some offices have party games. The temptation is to be lewd or bawdy. Avoid making sexual innuendos, telling off-color jokes, or making other comments that may be deemed inappropriate or offensive.
8. Singing: If the office loves karaoke, avoid songs with curse words, inappropriate lyrics, or offensive undertones. If you're singing with a colleague, avoid anything overtly sexual. Also avoid any sexual gestures while singing.
If you think I'm the Grinch, think again. It's your boss and HR that are the holiday Grinches. I'm just trying to keep you employed. Ho ho freaking ho.
Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.