Do office rules apply outside the office?

We are a small company with 8 full-time employees, all men. Recently, we had an end of Summer party at the beach on a Friday afternoon. This was a company-sponsored social event where no business was conducted or discussed. Some of the conversation later in the day was risqué, but not overheard outside our group.

The President told everyone in our weekly lunch meeting today that we will no longer be allowed to engage in such discussions and that it is indicative of a company culture which he does not want.

We do not engage in any conversations like this at work. We were not at work. We were not representing our company in any way. Does he have any right to tell us what we can and can’t talk about while not at work (although out together at a social function?)

Ann Kiernan replies:

If you and your colleagues had rented a house down the Shore (as we say in NJ) with your own money and thrown a party where some risqué remakes were made, I would be the first to say that it was none of the President’s business. But since the company was footing the bill for the beach party, company rules prevail.

Posted 11-14-2017

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.