It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holidays are a great time to spread cheer throughout your organization and celebrate the end of another year. Holiday parties are typically the place where these celebrations occur. Although holiday parties are generally joyous occasions, organizations’ managers and employees should be aware of things to consider when hosting and attending company parties.

1. Don’t Require Employees to Attend Holiday Parties

It would be wonderful to have all employees attend a company-wide holiday party. The more, the merrier. However, requiring employees to attend holiday parties that occur outside of normal working hours can present legal issues for employees who are not exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if these employees are not paid time and half (i.e. overtime pay) to attend the party. Under the FLSA, organizations must pay non-exempt employees at a rate of at least time and a half of the employee’s regular rate of pay for hours that the employee works in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Requiring attendance at company holiday parties may trigger this requirement for non-exempt employees. Organizations should consider including a note in party invitations that attendance is optional.

2.  Don’t Get Too Merry During Party Conversations

Holiday parties create a relaxed atmosphere, which is great for getting to know colleagues on a more personal level. However, all employees should stay away from topics that are too personal, such as political conversations and inappropriate conversations about employees’ interpersonal relationships. These conversations can quickly become offensive and result in a violation of company policies and employment laws. Employees should be reminded prior to the party that the company’s code of conduct is in effect during the party.

3. Choose Your Plus One Wisely

Plus ones are ultimately a reflection of the employee. If you know that your plus one is prone to making offensive comments that might embarrass you or your company, perhaps, your plus one should sit this one out. If you bring a guest to your holiday party, remind your guest to be respectful of your colleagues and company policies. Your guest’s behavior is a reflection of you.

4. Be Inclusive in Your Organization’s Invitation

Consider using inclusive language in your holiday party invitations.  Solely mentioning the celebration of one holiday, such as Christmas, excludes those celebrating holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Moreover, only allowing employees to invite their husbands or wives as plus ones leaves out a whole class of employees who might have potential guests to bring to the party that are not their husbands or wives. Unmarried employees in partnerships and employees who just want to bring a friend to the party should feel welcome to bring a guest who is not their/his/her husband or wife. Keep your invitations holly, jolly, and inclusive!

Now go celebrate the end of the year with your team, and happy holidays!


  • Ms. Childress is the managing attorney and founder of the Childress Firm PLLC, an employment law firm based in Washington, D.C. Ms. Childress holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government and African American Studies from the University of Virginia and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law. Ms. Childress graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with High Distinction from the University of Virginia in 2007. After law school, Ms. Childress served as a federal judicial law clerk in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Ms. Childress has served as an associate at two global law firms and as an attorney for the United States Department of Justice. Ms. Childress represents clients in all aspects of employment law. Ms. Childress has litigated retaliation, discrimination, sexual harassment, non-competition, trade secret, unfair labor practice, and whistleblower cases before various tribunals. In addition to being an attorney, Ms. Childress is the creator and author of the Juris P. Prudence children's book collection, featuring fictional 11-year-old lawyer, Juris P. Prudence. Ms. Childress has held leadership roles in the National Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and the Washington Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. She has been the recipient of several honors, including the National Bar Association’s 2018 Young Lawyer of the Year Award, the Washington Bar Association’s 2017-2018 Young Lawyer of the Year Award, the National Bar Association’s 40 under 40 Best Advocates Award, the Kim Keenan Leadership & Advocacy Award, the Greater Washington Area Chapter of the National Bar Association’s Rising Star Award, and recognition by the National Black Lawyers as one of the top 100 black attorneys. Ms. Childress has been featured in numerous publications, including Forbes, Essence, the Huffington Post, Success, and Entrepreneur.