required attendance at weekend event

A reader writes:

My organization is planning a large anniversary party that will be held on a Saturday (non work day). Employees are expressing concern if it is mandatory they attend, as there is another event in town occurring that night many have already purchased tickets for. Can our president make it mandatory employees attend? There is also concern of retaliation in performance reviews, end of year bonuses, and yearly raises for those who do not attend, is this legal? We are a small business, so full time employees who do not attend will be noticed at this event. Please advise.

Yes, it’s legal to make it mandatory. It’s also legal to raise it in performance reviews and so forth that you skipped an event you were asked to attend, or decide that you don’t show the expected engagement in company activities, etc.

But that’s a different question than whether it’s smart. If employees weren’t given a lot of notice about this, it’s not smart — because employees may have other plans, may not even be planning to be in town, may need to arrange child care, etc. If a company is going to require attendance at something outside of normal work hours, it should give a ton of notice. But again, there’s no legal requirement that they do so; only a practical and humanitarian one.

{ 3 comments… read them below }

  1. The Engineer*

    At least find out if it really is “mandatory” that you attend. No sense worrying about a problem that isn’t one. I suspect that an anniversary party is meant to foster good feelings and upper management thinks they are doing a good thing. If the event is still in the planning stages perhaps a week later would be possible. Bring up the issue.

    If the president insists and/or retaliates, then I would be looking for new opportunities. I work for myself first, the company second. If those two diverge, then I’m sticking with number one.

  2. class factotum*

    Why do managers think that requiring people to spend non-work time at work-related activities is a reward? If I am required to attend something that involves my boss, it’s work. If you’re making me do it on a Saturday, you’re not rewarding me; you’re ticking me off.

  3. HR Wench*

    If attendance is required (in that if you are not there it will count against you under your attendance policy) then non-exempt employees must be PAID to be there. No kidding.

    If attendance is “required” in that you are expected to be there but will not be considered “absent without leave” if you’re not (like you would for ducking out of work on any normal Tuesday) then I’m sure they can get away with not paying the non-exempt employees…but the politics of the situation will certainly sting.

    I hate crap like this. No event outside normal business hours should be mandatory unless you’re in senior management or make at least 3 figures, dang it.

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