Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman Show Wrong Way to Party at Work

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By Jon Steingart

Dec. 13 — Cocaine in the office. Sex toys as secret Santa gifts. A prostitute in the bathroom. These are some of the shenanigans that happen in the new comedy film “Office Christmas Party,” and they’re not that far-fetched.

“While those sets of events aren’t based in real life, those events bring to mind what happens in real workplaces,” Philippe Weiss of Seyfarth Shaw told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 12.

“January 1 through January 30th is always fertile ground for lawsuits that result from the December parties,” Weiss said. “Bottom line: It’s one night. Don’t ruin your career, your business, your reputation over one night,” he said.

Weiss is managing director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, the management-side law firm’s Chicago-based subsidiary that assists employers with proactive compliance with employment laws.

The Later the Party, the Greater the Regret

“Christmas Party” stars Jennifer Aniston as Carol Vanstone, the no-nonsense chief executive officer of Zenotek Data Storage Systems, a struggling tech company.

Chief technology officer Josh Parker and his deputy Tracey Hughes, played by Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn, decide their best bet to save the company is to woo a big client by throwing a show-stopping party.

It doesn’t take long before the celebration gets out of hand. And the party goes until the next morning.

This violates one of Weiss’ main recommendations regarding holiday parties: “There’s almost a one-for-one ratio between how late the party goes and how many regrets result,” he said. He recommended closing business early one day so the party can begin in the afternoon and wrap up by evening.

Another suggestion from Weiss: Make sure employees know that the usual workplace rules are still in effect.

If Zenotek’s staff understood this, one attendee might have left her plastic bag full of cocaine at home, and at least one of the injured partygoers would have avoided a dental injury that landed him in the hospital.

Drink Tickets, Please

Even without the blow to the face, a second character got behind the wheel after he drank—a lot.

Unlimited alcohol is a problem, Weiss said. He suggested giving attendees drink tickets as a way to limit consumption.

As an additional measure to limit the amount of alcohol people consume, Weiss said the bar should be limited to beer and wine only. Hard liquor is problematic because of its high alcohol content.

“People might grouse a bit, but they’re happy to have free alcohol,” he said.

“Office Christmas Party” is a work of fiction in which “the stuff that you would think is least realistic are things we’ve seen,” Weiss said.

The sole story arc Weiss questioned was Carol being stranded in Chicago because a snow storm cancelled her flight home. “That’s the only part of the movie that’s not realistic,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

For More Information

“Office Christmas Party” is showing at a theater near you.

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