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  • Writer's pictureJoshua C. Black

Is it OK to RSVP ‘No’ to the Company Holiday Party?

By Joshua C. Black, Esq.

With COVID-19 numbers spiking this winter, you may be apprehensive about attending face-to-face office holiday parties this year.

Even in the best of years, many employees may have been unenthusiastic about attending holiday parties. For a lot of organizations, activities like the annual Christmas party could be viewed as unofficially mandatory with managers taking note of who does—and more importantly—who does not attend. “To party or not to party” is a much more difficult question in 2020.

Here are some things to consider before you RSVP:

What kind of party is it – really?

If your company’s party is purely social, you are concerned that proper social-distancing measures cannot be taken, and you’re not getting paid to be there, then you are probably fine to skip the celebration this year.

If the function is a paid work activity, if year-end financials or other company business will be discussed, and if the event is held during normal business hours, then more than likely your attendance is required. This is especially true if your employer treats the party like an end-of-year event where service awards, bonuses or other business information is presented. In that case, the event is more work than party.

Office parties in 2020 will be rare.

The good news is most companies will likely avoid doing the standard in-person holiday party this year. With CDC recommendations about multi-household gatherings, mask mandates and social-distancing recommendations, organizations will probably postpone these types of celebrations until next year. Although, you may be invited to virtual gatherings instead.

In the event you don’t feel safe attending a required in-person event, it’s important to speak up and share concerns sooner rather than later. If the party is compulsory, you should be prepared to be flexible and open to a solution that allows you to meet job requirements and employment obligations while still feeling safe.

At the end of the day, whether or not a company can require you to participate in a holiday party in person depends. Before you decide if attendance is mandatory, try to establish if the event is a social gathering or if actual business will be discussed. This determination should help make the decision easier this holiday season.

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