Can I be forced to participate in after hours social events?

My boss uses the fact that I won't participate in after hour social events (drinking at bars etc) on my annual reviews which affects my pay. What recourse do I have (if any)?

1 answer  |  asked Aug 23, 2011 09:56 AM [EST]  |  applies to California

Answers (1)

Marilynn Mika Spencer
The following comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange.

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Your question should have a simple answer, but does not. There are a number of things to consider; also, there are different answers based on the reason you do not participate in after-hour events with your boss and coworkers.

If you are actually or effectively required to attend these “after-hours” events in order to obtain raises, it is hard to view this time as purely social and voluntary. Depending on a number of factors, your employer might be violating wage and hour laws. In California, all work time must be compensated. If attending these events is a job requirement, then that time should be paid time.

If these after-hour activities are really an extension of work, with work being discussed and work-related decisions being made, your employer may be violating wage and hour laws by not paying for your time.

If these events can be construed as work time, and if you objected to or complained about attending because you were not getting paid, then your employer may be engaging in unlawful reprisal for your objection to unlawful payment practices.

Also, an employer must provide workers’ compensation coverage for injuries that take place in the course and scope of work, regardless of where that work is performed.

Do you stay away from socializing for religious reasons? If so, your employer may be discriminating against you based on religion.

Do you stay away from socializing because you are uncomfortable attending based on your sex, race, age, disability, or other similar factor? For example, many women are uncomfortable socializing with male coworkers, especially in a bar. And some locations for socializing are impossible or difficult for people with certain disabilities to get into or get around in. This kind of discomfort may be related to unlawful discrimination.

I could keep going for pages and pages about the different possible circumstances that might make what your employer’s actions unlawful. It would be best to make this determination in conjunction with an attorney who can advise you based on the particular facts of your employment.

There are also practical considerations. How will you and your attorney be able to prove that your lack of participation in social activates is a reason you are not getting raises or better work? There must be more than a “gut feeling” to prove your case, even if your feeling is correct.

Another consideration is what will happen if you protest unlawful activity? Some employers who violate one law seem more willing to violate other laws. Your protest against unlawful activity may cause your employer to treat you even worse – to take reprisal against you. While doing so would also be illegal, you should think about whether your financial or professional losses are enough to warrant pursuing a claim.

Please note that all legal actions are subject to time limits (deadlines), sometimes called statutes of limitation, which require potential parties to file their claims by specific dates. If those deadlines are missed, all related claims will be barred forever. Therefore, if you want to preserve any legal rights you might have, please contact an attorney as soon as possible. For referrals, you may contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the San Diego County Bar Association at (619) 231-8585, or the county bar association for your county of residence. You can find lists of attorneys who represent plaintiffs in employment cases at , , and .

Marilynn Mika Spencer
The Spencer Law Firm

posted by Marilynn Mika Spencer  |  Aug 24, 2011 04:17 AM [EST]

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