Get through your Christmas party
It wouldn’t be an office Christmas party without someone doing something a bit regrettable.
But mistakes can have long-term implications and there are a number of cases that have been before the Employment Relations Authority where a Christmas party disaster has contributed to someone losing their job, or given them cause to lodge a personal grievance.
We’ve trawled the records to identify some of the key things you should not do if you want to survive the festive season with your career intact.
Don’t assume the person who always organises the party is happy to do it again
Most workplaces have one - the super-organised person who is called upon to take care of everything from leaving presents to Melbourne Cup sweepstakes. Make sure they are happy to do so.
One case heard by the Employment Relations Authority related to a woman who suffered workplace stress and eventually felt she was unjustifiably dismissed.
She said she felt put-upon when she had to organise the staff Christmas party.
"[It] was unfair because it involved a lot of work, there was a lack of support from other coordinators and little recognition for [her] effort for what was clearly a successful event."
Keep workplace disputes away from the party
Someone in your office might be driving you up the wall. The party is not the time to tell them.
In one case, a man claimed he was assault by his firm’s managing director. He said he was talking to two people when the boss told him to go and join another group, and gave him a shove that "propelled him across the room". The other parties denied the shove happened.
In another, a party was shut down when a worker took objection to being splashed with water and ice, and decided to dunk the person who splashed him in the drinks bucket.
The other man resisted and ended up with scraped legs and a shoulder injury.
Stay away from the mistletoe
Sexual harassment is still sexual harassment, even if you are at a party.
In another ERA case, a woman cited one example of inappropriate behaviour in which her supervisor, dressed as Santa, used a bottle opener to form a "graphic and prominent phallic symbol which he attached to his garb".
In many cases, the repercussions are serious for the bosses, too.
Employers can be liable if they do not take sufficient precautions to prevent harassment at the party.
Alison Maelzer, of law firm Hesketh Henry, said whether workplace health and safety laws would apply at the Christmas party, giving employers responsibility for their staff’s wellbeing, would depend on where the party was held, who paid for it and whether attendance was compulsory.
One company’s attempt to do something for workers’ kids backfired when a staff member who did not have children found out about the additional kids party.
She overheard arrangements being made for Rainbow’s End and eventually became aware of the second Christmas party.
She said she felt discriminated against and threatened to sue her employer because she had not been invited.
Her personal grievance claim was dismissed by the Employment Relations Authority.