The Ghost of Bad Behavior During the Holiday Season: Investigating Employee Misconduct

 Have you had your office holiday party yet? If you operate a small or mid-sized business, you can’t afford the problems that surface when employees go wild.

Parties are meant to bring your employees together and build morale, but sometimes those celebrations lead to trouble .

Too much holiday spirit can lead to drunken driving, sexual harassment or assault.  Alcohol reduces inhibitions and while kissing under the mistletoe may be a Christmas tradition, it isn’t appropriate in the workplace.

How do you handle a situation where an employee offers a female employee a ride home and gets a bit too aggressive? What if one of your employees gets behind the wheel after your party?

When Holiday Cheer Turns into Trouble

You can be held liable for some of the actions of your employees. Help your staff have a safe holiday by being proactive:

  • More companies are offering cab vouchers to get people home safely after an event. This is a great move that cuts down on DUIs. You can also hire companies that specialize in driving people home from parties.
  • Educating your employees about these issues is your job, but that doesn’t mean people are going to remember the rules or even care after that third drink. Limit the number of drinks and keep an eye on the people who are over imbibing.
  • If you can afford it, offer hotel rooms for employees who live too far for a cab ride.

The Hangover Effect

One night of partying can have serious consequences.  You may not find out about an incident until after the fact.  Investigating employee issues such as sexual harassment or DUIs can be difficult for even the most experienced human resources manager.

The employee may not even remember the incident, which makes it difficult to determine what really happened. If your employees were at a bar, staff or patrons may have witnessed the incident.  While you can interview your employees, it can be difficult for a human resources professional to take the investigation externally.

An independent investigator can locate and interview witnesses. If other employees have been drinking, they probably weren’t paying that much attention.  Co-workers are also reluctant to “rat out” their peers to their managers, but they will often be more willing to speak to an unbiased professional.

Investigating a complaint protects both parties. Allegations can be false and if you don’t handle the situation correctly, you could be faced with a wrongful dismissal suit.

People do desperate things during the holidays. The financial pressures to provide extras during this time of year are inflated by our consumer culture. Theft, embezzlement or other forms of financial fraud are more likely to happen when someone is in a financial crisis.

The holidays are supposed to be a wonderful time, but for many people it is lonely and depressing. Depression causes people to do things that they normally wouldn’t. Compassion and sensitivity are required to deal with some of these issues, but they also need resolution that may end in criminal charges or civil suits.

If one of your drivers is arrested for driving under the influence during the holidays, you may not find out about it. They don’t want to lose their job, so they will keep this important information from you. This employee becomes a serious liability and negates your insurance policy.

The New Year is a good time to consider implementing infinity screening. All companies should be conducting pre-employment background checks on your new hires, but that isn’t going to help you if their behavior changes after they have been employed. Infinity screening allows you to determine if someone has had a run-in with the law, had their license suspended or been convicted of a crime since they have been on your payroll.

By implementing a plan to deal with any issues that could affect the reputation and working environment of your company, you enhance your corporate culture and provide a safe working environment for all your staff.

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