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Is it legal for an employer in FL to tell employees who agreed to attend the company Christmas party to leave work at 3pm and require those who cannot attend to work the full day until 5pm?

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    Are the people going to the party being paid for those two hours? Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 17:46
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    Questions about employment law are not off-topic.
    – BSMP
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 21:54
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    The party is a "team-building exercise". It's organized & paid for by the company, but attendance is voluntary. So you either participate in the "team-building exercise" for those 2 hours, or you continue o do your normal work for those same 2 hours.
    – brhans
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 23:10
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    It's not only legal, it's eminently reasonable.
    – TonyK
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 19:52
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    Yep. law.stackexchange.com will give you a great answer. But the workplace answer is, "is this really such a big deal that you want to make a thing over it" Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 4:32

2 Answers 2

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Forget for a moment that it was a party. Let's say the employer wanted some people to have current CPR training. To encourage people to get trained they allow employees to spend 2 hours in a class, while everybody else has to work. is this legal? Yes, it is.

The employer by allowing the partygoers to leave work early is doing something similar. Yes, the party is more enjoyable for some people, while others would prefer the CPR class.

If the party was for everybody, then those that chose not to attend should not expect to be given 2 hours of leave.

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Probably not illegal, but it could be...

By-in-large, an Employer can excuse you from your normal work duties for any reason he chooses, but he does not have to excuse you unless there is something in your work agreement that guarantees time off for certain events. If time off for a Christmas Party is in your employment contract, then he is contractually bound to honor it, but that would be pretty uncommon.

That said, the reason that some employees attend and some don't could also possibly run afoul of EEOC laws. Whenever a privilege is granted to some employees and not others, it is technically a form of discrimination. So, the question then becomes whether it is a legally protected form of discrimination or not. Under EEOC you may not discriminate in the workplace for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy status, national origin, advanced age, disability, or genetic information.

The most common violation of EEOC in the scenario you've described is when an employer throws a Christmas Party and invites everyone, but the non-Christian employees chose not to attend for religious reasons. If your employer then required these employees to work during that time without offering any accommodations, that would constitute religious discrimination. Likewise, if he only invites Christian employees, and makes everyone else work, that would also be religious discrimination.

So, if this is in-fact branded as a Christmas Party and not a Holiday Party, and you are not Christian, you should be able to request to leave work early that day as a form of reasonable accommodation.

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    I'm an atheist, and I have no problem calling it a Christmas party. It's not a religious service. It's a party. I expect that a judge would find the same. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 1:22
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    I think this assumes the party is "time off" i.e. a benefit whereas the company probably views it as part of work duties that explores are paid for (team-building, networking, etc) Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 10:18
  • @GregoryCurrie This is about the people who are choosing not to attend, not the people who are choosing to not care enough to show up anyway. In my experience, the religious connotations have been the biggest reason for people to choose to skip a Christmas party. While as an Atheist you may not believe in the religious significance of Christmas, many Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc are religiously obligated not to celebrate Christmas, and there have been many lawsuits about this. This became a big deal back in the late 90s and is why companies usually call them Holiday parties now.
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 14:39
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    In the OPs question people are free not to attend. They just can't take arbitrary time off when other people are taking part in the party. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 19:59

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