What You Need to Know Before the Summer Office Party!!
By Shaun Bernstein
Summer is usually the perfect time to celebrate with your workplace team. The weather is beautiful, the workload may be lighter, and people are usually relaxed and easygoing. Your team may be planning a cottage retreat, taking in a sporting event, or even just enjoying a night on the town.
All of these can be excellent ideas that make your team stronger and more cohesive. Spending time together with colleagues outside of work can be a great way to connect with co-workers you don’t get to see every day, and strengthen relationships that are not strictly based on business.
In one landmark case, the Court of Appeal upheld the termination of an Executive Director, who was accused of several incidents of sexual harassment, even though these incidents did not take place at the office. The complaints involved incidents during business travel, including nights out with co-workers, business lunches, parties at hotel suites (including in a hot tub), and at the employer’s cottage.
While the trial judge dismissed a number of the incidents as conduct amongst close friends that occurred outside the workplace, the Court of Appeal strongly disagreed. They said that all the locations were perceived by the staff to be involving business, and many of these incidents “occurred in the context of the work environment.” The Court also held that even if employees feel uncomfortable with certain conduct, they might feel pressured to go along with it if it comes from a supervisor.
While the incidents in the case are extreme, the message from the Court is clear. Business events outside the office occur for both business and pleasure, but the conduct of both employees and supervisors at these events should still be considered ‘workplace conduct.’ Well-written employee policies and guidelines can help provide clarity for your team on what is and is not appropriate for your team.
Enjoy the time out with your co-workers this summer; just make sure not to do anything you would not do at work, and that you have workplace conduct policies and communicate them clearly to your team.
Our team of HR professionals is happy to help you review your workplace policies. Contact us today for more information.