8 Holiday Party Survival Secrets From An Employment Lawyer

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Male office worker holding mistletoe above female colleague
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You're probably gearing up for the holiday party season, and maybe even the dread office holiday party. Every year, I have people contact me after the holidays when they are fired for something that happened during a party involving coworkers, customers, vendors, or other colleagues. They're shocked (shocked!) that their years of service and great reviews didn't keep them from being fired.

This year, I'd like to offer some tips, from an employment lawyer's perspective, to help you survive holiday parties without getting fired.

But first, an off-topic pitch. I need your vote. I'm honored to announce that my blog, Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home, has been named one of the ABA Blawg 100, representing the top blogs in the legal community. Mine is the only employee-side blog listed in the Labor and Employment category. Now they're asking for votes for the top blog in each category. It only takes a minute to register and vote. I'd sure appreciate your vote. Voting ends December 19.

Now, back to the column. Here are 8 tips to help you get through the holiday party season without being fired: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: Too 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. 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.

Sure, I sound like the Grinch. But I'd rather be a party pooper than have you calling me in January crying that you got fired. The best rule of thumb: don't do it or say it if you don't want it on the front page of the company newsletter.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.

Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.
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