Office parties and nonexempt employees

Having office parties can be problematic
Having office parties can be problematic

In addition to the post yesterday about holiday pay I thought I would address the issue of holiday parties since many of you may be having a holiday party this year Here is some quick advice on holiday parties and pay when dealing with non-exempt employees.

Do employees have to attend?

Most holiday parties are voluntary, but not always. There are occasions where an employee is either required to attend or it is “heavily suggested” they attend. Companies are free to do this, although I would suggest if you are making employees attend the party you may have some employee relations issues.
You can make your exempt employees attend all you want, however, if you make your non-exempt employees attend this could be perceived as “work” and you most likely will need to pay them for their attendance. If the party is on a Friday or Saturday and that time takes them to over 40 hours that workweek then you had better be sure you are paying overtime. This will certainly increase the cost associated with the party. You better off making the party entirely voluntary and make that clear to everyone.

Helping with the party

Sometimes nonexempt employees will say they will volunteer to “work” the party. Notice the word in quotes. Some bosses may like the sound of “volunteer.” Sorry to burst your bubble but neither the USDOL nor the courts recognize nonexempt volunteering for their employer’s benefit. This means that you have to pay them.
Do the company a favor. Have a party in the office during normal work hours. You are paying everyone to be there anyway. This also will eliminate alcohol being served and thus you avoid all the sexual harassment issues and the embarrassment of watching the CEO do a terrible rendition of the latest dance style.

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