As the Christmas party season comes into full swing, it is time to remember that these celebrations should be about everyone enjoying themselves and avoiding behaviour that could result in regrets, lawsuits or even worse. There have been many examples over the years of the poor behaviour that can occur during or after such events.

In 2007, a Telstra employee was sacked after she had sex with at least one male in a Sydney hotel after the office Christmas party. The issue was raised by one of the employees in the hotel room suggesting that her behaviour amounted to sexual harassment. The Australian Industrial Relations Commissions held that because her actions had significant implications for the staff, in the circumstances the hotel could be considered part of the workplace and the employer was allowed to dismiss her.

A Leighton Boral Amey employee was initially sacked for telling the company director to “f*** off” and calling a female colleague a “stuck up bitch”. However, the Fair Work Commissioner held that he was to be reinstated because the employer could not expect compliance of the usual nature at a function that served unlimited alcohol.

How can employers overcome some of the issues caused by Christmas parties? Firstly, employers should have well drafted policies that specify appropriate workplace behaviour. Secondly, employers should ensure that staff are well aware of the policy and understand what behaviour expected. Thirdly, alcohol at any staff event should be served in moderation and there should be plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks.

If you require any further information or assistance with drafting workplace policies, contact our team of lawyers at The Quinn Group on (02) 9223 9166 or submit an online enquiry form today.