Trusted Legal Advocacy

Do hourly employees have to be paid for time at holiday events?

On Behalf of | Nov 14, 2021 | Employment Law

This time of year, workplaces of all kinds are preparing for holiday festivities – from potlucks to Secret Santa gift exchanges to parties. When it comes to their hourly employees, however, some employers don’t extend this holiday spirit to paying them as required for the time they spend at these events.

Does your employer have to pay you for your time at a holiday event or can they require you to go “off-the-clock,” even if it’s during work hours? It depends on the circumstances. Let’s look at a few factors.

Is it during work hours?

If it’s a potluck lunch, you may be required to sign out for your usual lunch break. However, if it goes a couple of hours as people exchange gifts and the boss gives a big speech, you should be paid for your time – or paid overtime if you have to work later as a result of this extended break. However, another factor is whether you’re required to be there.

Is it mandatory?

If everyone is expected to attend this workplace potluck or party, you should be compensated just as if you were working. The word “mandatory,” however, can be a little fuzzy. Maybe you won’t be fired if you don’t attend, but what if the company owner is going to lay out their goals for the new year, give out awards for excellent performance or make some important announcements? Then it’s essentially a work-related event and you should be paid for your time.

Is it off-site?

Typically, companies don’t require employees to attend events held outside of work hours at other locations like holiday parties and company picnics. Therefore, you probably can’t expect to count that in your work hours. Many people find that the opportunity to mix and mingle with their boss, introduce their significant other to them and enjoy some food and drink makes it worth their time to at least make an appearance.

Do you have a valid legal claim if your boss doesn’t pay you for the time you spend at a holiday event? Probably not. However, a company that refuses to give their employees a longer-than-usual break in the day to celebrate the holidays with co-workers without making them sign out likely has other issues with fair and legal compensation. If this describes your management, it’s worth keeping an eye out to make sure you’re being paid what you’re owed.