my company throws A List and B List parties for employees

This post was originally published on March 29, 2010.

A reader writes:

I am a “peak period employee” of a large company. Although I have worked 1000+ hours per year for them every year for the last decade, employees of my status are not invited to the annual holiday party. This is reserved for full-time permanent employees, and is usually a very splashy affair: evening dress, wine, dancing, etc.

In 2009 the human resources department inaugurated a B-list party (my term, not their term). Employees not invited to the A-list party were invited to go to a local $9.99 buffet that features plastic bibs emblazoned with the slogan “Put on a Bib! Oink! Oink! Pig out on Ribs! Oink! Oink!” Several tepid speeches were given, and paper awards handed out to all.

I will not be attending this party next year, if it is given. Non-attendees of the 2009 B-list party were gently chastised for not showing up to claim their holiday thank-you certificate (not quite all A-list people got year-end cash bonuses, but most did. No B-listers ever get them, even when vastly outperforming A-listers at the same job in far fewer hours).

I find it difficult to believe that my company does not understand that having two separate but unequal parties is just rubbing salt in the wound. I will say something in our end-of-season job satisfaction survey about this, but are they really going to pay attention to an anonymous survey response? If I approach HR about this will I merely sound trite and whiny? How seriously would you take this as a manager?

Yeah, this is a weird (and rude) practice. It’s hard to imagine how someone thought this wouldn’t produce resentment, irritation, and mockery.

That said … I wouldn’t make a big deal of it, because there are bigger things to care about. Things like: Do you have a fair and effective manager? Are you given clear goals and expectations? Do you receive recognition for good work, and feedback about ways you can do better? Do you have the resources to do your job? How’s the pay? Do you like the people you work with?

Now, if these dual parties are representative of other poor treatment from the company, then that’s an issue … but in that case, you should be focusing on those bigger issues anyway. If they’re not, and it’s just some weird and misguided decision on their part, I’d let it go. Enjoy it for the piece of ridiculousness it is and don’t dwell on it too much beyond that.

{ 85 comments… read them below }

  1. snuck*

    I’m curious why there’s two parties – what sort of seasonal work is it, and is the company one that has a small dedicated crew that hold it together through most of the year and then swell massively for a short period of seasonal work? If so then this doesn’t seem like such a bad solution.

  2. Anon - 345*

    You mention full-time permanent employees. Are you a part time employee or someone who works through a contracting agency?

  3. Lacey*

    I can *almost* get on board with the idea of having a party for permanent employees that doesn’t include seasonal workers, if the seasonal workers are there for one month of the year, say, picking grapes, and the rest of the people are there all year round stomping grapes, tending to the vats of wine and labelling boxes (I have no idea what the jobs are, just giving an example).

    But calling it the “B-party”, chastising people for not attending, not rewarding the “B employees” who are actually more productive than the “A employees”…this is just rude and demoralising.

    Sometimes it seems like half the world is run by douchebags.

  4. Lora*

    Oh my. I’ve known (and worked for) several companies who used “perma-temps”: benefits-less contract workers who did the same work as full timers, often for less pay, for years on end. (Yes, this is illegal, no they didn’t care about getting caught. They earned interest on savings from unpaid wages/benefits and all the NLRB does is require them to pay back wages, not punitive damages. Anyway.) Not only were the perma-temps not invited to any company functions such as holiday parties and team-building exercises and summer picnics, they were not allowed to use the company gym or any of the campus perks that would have cost the company nothing at all–and management frequently sent out company-wide email reminders that they were dis-invited to the various functions, not allowed to use the convenient parking lot (which wasn’t even close to full), etc.

    Yeah, it stung. The goal was to remind everyone that working for Company was a privilege they should always appreciate–“look how lucky you are! So don’t quit to work for our competitor! Peasants, if you persevere, work hard and pray, someday you too shall enter the kingdom of heaven!”

    You would hope that someone would stand up and say, “excuse me, this is BS,” but when it comes from the head of HR and the C_O, not so much.

    1. Chinook*

      I see this in my current company but, instead “permanent” and “seasonal”, it is American and Canadian. Our homepage everytime we log in is set to the Head Office home page and shows us all the wonderful ways they support the American employees. Canadian employeeS, though, know that none of it applies to them. This was no big deal until they started trumpeting all the money they were putting towards Colorafo flood relief and supporting those hurt by the Navyyard shooting (where we don’t have offices) but not one word of support was given when our office was evacuaed for a week due to flooding and 3 employees left homeless (our office even did a fundraiser for them). It is not that I resent them helping employees (I am encouraged that they do so) but it does make you feel less like “part of the family” and this attitude does show itself in other ways and policies (like no willingness to shift month/year end procedures a day or two to allow for Canadian holidays)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I wish everybody could quit when companies do crap like this. Everybody, all at the same time. Not strike–quit, for much better jobs with better managers and awesome benefits. Then I want to be a fly on the wall when the managers come in and no one is there. Hehehe.

      2. bob*

        Hope everyone in Calgary is back on their feet. Our office is downtown and had some basement flooding but the employees generally got lucky.

    2. Anonymous*

      I was a perma-temp for 2 years. When I was finally generously offered a permanent position, I declined it because the pay increase was $1. We were never able to take vacation time (3 weeks went untouched for a lot of people since management never approved) , and the health insurance was so expensive we actually got paid less if we took it. Temps were also NOT invited to any functions and it didn’t matter if you worked full time for the past 3 years.

    3. Jamie*

      You would hope that someone would stand up and say, “excuse me, this is BS,” but when it comes from the head of HR and the C_O, not so much.

      Again, I know this sucks, but I’d bet real money that they were getting that advice from their labor attorney.

      If you offer contracted or temp workers the same amenities as permanent employees, especially if they are long term, it sets up a legal argument that they were treated as full employees in all ways except payroll. So legally they are being smart by making such clear distinctions.

      I am not saying it’s right if they were using contracted people illegally and they should have actually been employees. That’s not okay…and it’s why people should know their own rights and status. I know people can’t just up and leave on a dime, but if they’ve been there for years on end they should have been looking for another job where they would be legally classified correctly.

      1. De Minimis*

        At one former workplace, they “fired” the temps for one week a year, then brought them back [usually.] That was how they were able to keep them as perma-temps.

        1. BookWorm*

          I had a job offer from a place like this once. The job was full-time, 40 hours a week – except – one week a year was “slow”. The person in that position would be off the slow week and therefore would be a part-time employee & only eligible for the crappy part-time benefits.

          I passed on that job.

  5. Rayner*

    For once, I disagree with AAM.

    I think this practice of giving two parties, one drastically more fancy and upscale than the other is not something to ignore at all. It’s demoralising, and hurtful to the B-party attendees, and it’s pretty self indulgent and ignorant of the A-Party planners to do that. The first thing it tells me about this company would be that I’d try very hard to either not work there again, or to ONLY do my required hours and amount of work because it doesn’t matter how well I do, my reward is nothing compared to the full time guy who does half that work but gets a big reward and swanky dinner.

    Why can’t the part timers/seasonal/on peak employees attend the A-list party? Even if they don’t receive bonuses, having a nice meal in a swanky place would be much more rewarding to them than a crappy buffet and certificates. Or, if that’s too much money, meeting somewhere in the middle between both parties’ level of swank would be better.

    Even though it’s ‘just’ seasonal/peak period employees who are affected, what it tells them is that they are not appreciated, that the company doesn’t understand the dynamics they’re creating with one ‘part’ being treated better than the other, and that nobody is being treated according to merit at the end of the day – just whether or not they’re full time or not.

    I would suggest bringing something up to the organisers of the party, with other people who share that opinion since they obviously think it’s A-Okay to exclude people and treat them in a worse/less pleasant way – and not attending the pink pig party anyway, both to survive the stupid, and to make a point. If they made a fuss, I’d tell them politely, that I have other plans, and don’t enjoy that kind of food, so I’ll be skipping but I wish them all the best.

    I realise that none of this matters, since it’s from long ago, but that’s my gut reaction.

  6. FiveNine*

    I’m wondering if the real issue here is that OP feels he/she should have already been offered permanent, full time employment after excelling for a decade at peak, seasonal work? Because honestly, it’s really quite a gesture for an employer to offer peak seasonal employees any kind of all-you-can-eat sit-down party with certificates of recognition. (I’m sorry OP was offended by the bibs but it’s not clear that had anything to do with the employer but was the restaurant that catered.)

  7. SB*

    At CurrentJob, we have quite a few contract workers. They work full time, and usually are with the company for years. They are not eligible for any of the bonuses, awards, perks, etc that come with being a permanent employee. Even if they work on a project that receives an internal award, they are not listed as a winner and do not get whatever trip/trophy/money that comes with being a winner. They are not invited to the swanky annual Holiday Bash.
    I’m not sure which would be worse, getting no recognition at all or getting second rate recognition.

    1. Frances*

      I can understand not being eligible for some of the cash benefits, but not inviting them to a holiday party is just tacky. Every organization I’ve worked with that’s had temps around the holidays invited them to the celebration, and I think that’s the way to go. They understood that they weren’t in the door prize drawings, but had a great time anyway.

      1. some1*

        Ditto. Not inviting temps/contractors is a ridiculous policy. The purpose of the party should be employee appreciation, and temps do work to keep the business making money, too.

    2. Anonymous*

      It’s important to keep in mind that companies are required to maintain distinctions between employees and contract workers if they wish to avoid the requirements associated with employing that individual (taxes, legal, etc.). Treating contract workers as employees – inviting them to employee meetings, providing certain types of performance feedback directly (rather than to the contract worker’s actual employer), giving bonuses or other recognition – can raise the question of whether that contract worker really is an employee, entitled to all other benefits of employment (like discounted stock purchases in the seminal case). This can not only get very expensive, and rather defeats the purposes of having a flexible work force of contract workers.

      Keeping the individuals on for years can also cause problems in this area, but I did want to make the point that it is possible managers are being properly instructed on how to maintain the distinction between employees and non-employees and are following that guidance rather than denying recognition to these individuals with malicious glee.

      1. Lora*

        True, but you can make it up to the contract employees in other ways. Like, they can’t receive the typical full-timer bonus that is calculated using some arcane formula involving moon phases, planetary alignment and a dartboard or however it’s done, but instead the contract manager distributes a bonus when X production is completed in (time). And make that number as good as or better than the full-timer bonus. Or if the full-timers are having an off-site team-building exercise of trust falls and whatnot, the contractors get a paid day off.

        You don’t have to do it all snotty and petty like many employers do. For example, look at how contract employees are treated vs. how consultants are treated–even though both are technically contractors and may be utilized for similar lengths of time, the Unicco guys mopping the floor are treated very differently to the McKinsey suits claiming all the conference rooms. There isn’t actually a law that says you have to treat contractors *worse*. Hey, I wish I was treated half as nice as BCG when they rampage through the cubicles, pinning “fire me” signs on the backs of random employees!

        1. Anonymous*

          “You don’t have to do it all snotty and petty like many employers do. ”

          Exactly –down thread they are slapping wrist behind ginger cookies…Really?

          I get making clear distinctions but how does a platter ginger cookies translate to anything other then thank you for doing a good job…here have a cookie.

      2. SB*

        While I can absolutely understand the importance of keeping a legal distinction, at the same time it’s a little frustrating for the long-term contractors. For example, when our office files patents, they leave off any person who worked on the project who is not a permanent employee. So not only is that person’s name not on the patent, they also don’t receive any of the money the office pays as part of the recognition. I think it’s the fact that the company will hire contractors full time for decades rather than hire permanent employees. It gives off the feeling that the company has less interest in being loyal to its employees, and also gives contractors less incentive to really put their best work forward.

        1. Jessa*

          I have an issue with the patent thing. I think that’s outrageous. The rest well it’s separating the whole permanent/not permanent thing. The patent thing is just wrong, and I’m NOT sure whether or not a lawsuit would be won on that basis. Even people who do work made for hire have a piece of the patent if it’s normally given to those people in the company.

      3. Jamie*

        It’s important to keep in mind that companies are required to maintain distinctions between employees and contract workers if they wish to avoid the requirements associated with employing that individual (taxes, legal, etc.).

        This is what I was coming here to post. You need to make sure temp/contract workers are not just legally but culturally distinct from permanent employees. That isn’t perfect phrasing, but there have been cases where the lines between temp and perm were so blurred culturally – even though they were paid from a separate agency – that companies have been forced to give them perm benefits by courts. At least that’s what the labor attys I’ve worked with, at more than one plant, have always said. Which is why you can’t refer to them as temporary employees, always temporary workers or employees of X Agency.

        And the longer people have temped or contracted at one place the more important it is to hold those distinctions lest you give them blur the legal distinction.

        And yes, this extends to how bonuses are handled as well as “employee functions.” I know it seems trivial but if the holiday party is an employee function and you invite non-employees (and temps and contractors are in that category) they can then say “I was in practice treated as an employee as I was invited to employee functions.”

        I’m not saying it’s right or wrong – I’m saying all the labor attorneys with whom I’ve worked in my industry absolutely insist on distinctions like this.

        And fwiw at previous companies I’ve been to the A parties for corporate and the B parties for the plant…the B party always way better.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          So, perhaps the company is trying to treat the contract workers better than they are required to? They know they can’t invite them to the holiday party and aren’t required to provide a party at all, but want to thank them too. They have to be careful with what they provide, but they still thank them with a dinner and certificates.

          1. FiveNine*

            I have a feeling the company would be shocked to learn that the barbeque for the peak seasonal workers is considered an insult. The company almost certainly is trying to convey to the workers that hey are valued.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I’d be interested to hear the behind-the-scenes comments behind the development of Party II there. I can see an exchange like “Geez, we can’t just leave the contractors out!” “Do you seriously think they’ll appreciate being invited to a party where the clothing will cost them more than we pay them in a week?”

              (BTW, is anybody else having some posts straight out not show up in the last day or so? I’m not ruling out me or my computer being ditzy, but I thought I’d ask.)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That should not be happening. If you can email me when you see it occur (with approximate time it happened), I’ll ask the person who’s manning (womaning?) the site while I’m on vacation look into it.

                Edited to add: Wait, do you mean posts or comments? I assumed you meant comments, but maybe you didn’t.

                1. Rayner*

                  Slightly relevant to this – I noticed yesterday (monday), I think it was, that the site was down or offline, and there was a cashed or saved copy being shown? Not quite sure why.

                2. fposte*

                  I meant comments, but I think ditziness is still the most likely cause. I’ll report if it happens in a way I’m convinced is technology and not me.

        2. Rayner*

          I find it extremely unlikely that inviting temps/seasonal workers to ONE party PER YEAR to give them a nice meal and a few speeches – not even to give them money prizes or bonuses but just the party itself – somehow magically alters the rest of their contract, the way they are paid, the fact that they have different responsibilities and rules, and probably are excluded from the regular workers’ meetings, privileges such as company cars and parking, and other reward systems, not to mention bonuses.

          Actually, in that case, why would having their own party somehow nullify this? Why doesn’t it also cause the same issues? And if it had to be that way, why not have two parties of equal value if it does?

          Unless there’s other things that I’ve missed, it’s a very unlikely thing to break the law to give temp workers a holiday party that’s fair and decent in value and experience.

          If it is, the system is seriously broken.

          1. Anonymous*

            The problem is not that the law requires that temporary workers not attend a holiday party – the problem is the context and who is giving it.

            You might keep in mind that these individuals have employers – not the company at which they are providing temporary services at the moment, but they do have employers. It is perfectly fine for their employers (not the same as the customer firm) to give them as lavish a party as they wish.

            The same is true for bonus payments – their employers can give these, but when a customer does, it can cause legal issues. There is no objection to a bonus, but the source has to be the individual’s actual employer to keep everyone out of trouble.

            With respect to patents as noted above, the service contracts normally provide for intellectual property rights resulting from work performed for a customer to go to the customer. If that company chooses to recognize its own employees by including them on the patent (noting they probably also gave up their legal rights, but it’s a good employee relations gesture), the company can choose to do so.

            Having one company choose to add the employee of another company to a patent would be inconsistent with the real relationships (customer and its employees, service provider / employer of workers providing contract services to – among others – customer).

            Again, this is not a matter of malice or evil intent. This is just making sure that the behavior matches the proper legal relationship. If it doesn’t, a court may well change the legal relationship to make it match the behavior – which is very expensive and defeats the purpose of engaging a temporary services provider to begin with.

            1. Rayner*

              I think people are over thinking this.

              ONE party. No bonuses for temps, no additional rewards for temps, no extra hours…. just the same party for everybody together. That’s what I’m suggesting.

              And yet, somehow this legally creates a conundrum that is so unfathomable that the company is worried that they will have no choice but to reclassify temporary workers as full time because they extended this party to everybody?

              Why then does it not happen with the buffet at the Pink Pig? It’s the same format – after hours, in a place that is not work, eating food and being given speeches to – just vastly different in terms of experience value.

              Why is that somehow not triggering the same response but including everybody together, equally and fairly, makes it awkward and legally weird?

              And idk about patents and things because that’s something else entirely, and not related to my point at all.

              But regarding the point about the temps having a ‘company’ of their own that they work for by being hired out… well, yeah. They do probably. But if I’ve made Hiring Company (NOT Temp Agency) $200,000 in sales or given them six months of my time, yes, I want recognition from them, not the temp agency or whatever. I did work for Hiring Company. I made them profits, or carried out their nonprofit mission etc. They should respect that.

              I’m not saying that the two parties design is intentionally malicious. I’m saying it’s crappy, ill thought out, and possibly, according to you, acting defensively to protect against the law in an overreactive manner, to the nth degree.

      4. Anna*

        Your point is fair but has to do with legal distinctions like bonus pay. Companies usually throw parties because they recognize that keeping up moral is important. If you make a very clear delineation between fancy party for permanent employees and kind of crappy party for non-permanent employess, that’s more about how you view your temporary work force and not the legal distinctions between permanent and non-permanent employees.

        1. LD*

          It is actually about maintaining the distinction between employees of the company and employees of the contract agency, not just bonus pay. There are many questions including whether those workers have access to similar “benefits” offered to employees, and that included company celebrations and parties. It is one of the many questions considered by the courts. It does feel bad to be treated differently and not included in meetings, retreats, or company parties, but unless the worker is an employee it is absolutely correct to treat them differently from regular employees. It is not an attempt to treat the contract or temp worker “badly”, just an attempt not to treat them as a regular employee.

      5. Betsy*

        One of the issues with this for me is that it feels like the company is basically making it look like they’re following the rules by hurting their temp people instead of actually following the rules.

        I mean, seriously, let’s imagine a company said, “1. Our temp workers are all hired on a contract which clearly defines responsibilities, and they can’t be redefined without new negotiation, 2. Our temp positions have a set start and end date, and returning temps have to reapply for positions, and 3. Our temp employees are not part of our performance review process, though we do consider internal recommendations when considering rehire.”

        Do you really think that someone would say, “Yeah, but they’re all real employees because they can use the break room and go to the holiday party!”

        Trying to use totally arbitrary and stigmatizing delineations to protect yourself from the legal consequences of violating the spirit of the law is kind of gross.

        1. Amy*

          “Do you really think that someone would say, ‘Yeah, but they’re all real employees because they can use the break room and go to the holiday party!'”

          Yes, an employment attorney would absolutely try to make that argument on behalf of a client who is trying to argue that he should be paid more than the contract specified.

          1. Rayner*

            Then that employment attorney is trying very hard to be frustrating but it’s not going to win.

            It’s utterly facetious and detracts from the main arguement – provided that contracts are solid, nobody is overworked or underpaid to the extent that the law dictates, and the company maintains reasonable boundaries with regards to rewards, bonuses, and assigning work between people who are full employees and people who are not, attending a holiday party should not alter anything except making the work environment a little better.

            1. Eddie Burquist*

              I 100% agree with this post. That being said, workers aren’t entitled to any sort of party. The OP said she wouldn’t attend again–that is the correct way to handle it. If you didn’t enjoy it, don’t attend. You aren’t entitled to a company party, period.

    3. LMW*

      I was in that position for years as a contract employee. It was awful. And what made it worse was that the company kept dangling the carrot of “permanent” employment in front of us (most of us came on board in “temp to hire” positions that never actually hired). It’s really rough getting treated differently from other employees when you are doing the same work.

  8. Jazzy Red*

    The OP said that he worked 1,000 hours, which is around 6 months. That’s not exactly seasonal as we think of, say, retail holiday employees.

    I’d give the party a miss, too, but if everything else about working there is good, I’d let it go.

    Take it as an example of how not to treat employees, EVER.

  9. Kim*

    Once I belonged to a non-profit agency that had some weirdness surrounding their holiday party. I wasn’t staff, but I was accepted into their program that helped me find a certain type of job (teaching) while the agency provided weak levels of support. (Read between the lines and you’ll know what I am talking about.) They sent us invitations for a holiday party; it was supposed to be all fancy. The invitation included an insert saying that we were not allowed the consume the alcohol provided at the party and the valet parking was only for donors. So the agency staff and donors could drink and have valet, but we were being trotted out like dancing monkeys. We weren’t there to celebrate and socialize, we were there to schmooze up the donors. Why market it as a party if we can’t partake?

      1. Forrest*

        Not really. She’s a recipient of the nonprofit’s program and the donors dollars. She’s there as 1) evidence that the program works, 2) where the donors dollars are going and 3) to say thanks.

        Its fairly common, though I understand why Kim wouldn’t want to go.

  10. AnonHR*

    I don’t know if anyone has ever ventured into the discussion boards on The Knot (the wedding website), but those ladies would have a field day with the etiquette issues here alone, forget about workplace issues…

    1. abankyteller*

      I absolutely agree with this. I haven’t been on that site since 2009, but I fondly remember the catclaws that would come out when anyone would ask about having an A-list and B-list for the reception or anything like that. They’d have a field day with this.

  11. HAnon*

    Kind of on a different topic, but can we share weirdest holiday party stories?

    When I worked at Ad Agency, my boss gave an alcohol-enhanced speech about how difficult a year it had been for her marriage (her husband was in the room) and how much she appreciated the CEO sticking with her and having faith in her as the company president during that time (it got more weird and more personal but I forget the exact details). Then she and her husband came up to my co-worker, squished her face between their heads (literally, skin touching), and asked her to “smell both of them” because they were wearing matching perfume. Husband then said something to the effect of “her new perfume drives me crazy! In a good way!” made a winky face, and offered to let me smell him. I smiled and said “no thanks.” We then went to a local bar for the Christmas party where my boss’s husband proceeded to ask me probing questions about my dating life for an hour and a half, and boss got upset when I wanted to go home around 11:00 pm after everyone had been drinking for hours and I had to sneak out without being seen in order to leave.

  12. BCW*

    You know, I think it sucks, and I would really not like it if I was on the B list, however aside from the terminology, I don’t know that having separate parties is all that bad. I worked at a pretty big cultural institution and we had separate holiday parties for staff and volunteers (we had roughly equal numbers of each). I have to assume the staff one was a bit more swanky. But I don’t know that its necessarily meant to be an insult, nor do I think it was taken as one. For those of us who worked closely with volunteers, we were encouraged to make an appearance there just to show our support, but it wasn’t really OUR party.

    If you didn’t hear it called “B list” would it still be as much of a problem

        1. Anna*

          It is if you’re working side by side with these people doing the same thing, but your recognized in such VASTLY different ways. Bonuses and pay raises are definitely one thing. Not a permanent employee, then of course no bonus, but making the distinction for a party is rude and indicates what they really think of their non-permanent staff.

          1. BCW*

            Well I do think though that a holiday party isn’t the biggest deal. Again, there are far bigger things to be angered about as far as unfair treatment. I don’t think having 2 separate parties is the most egregious thing that can be done. But when it comes to part time/volunteer/contract vs. salaried and full time I’d say a difference in those things isn’t unheard of

          2. LD*

            I was a temporary worker so I understand that it feels bad to be treated differently from regular employees when you are a temp. But the idea of treating temps differently is not about showing “what they really think of their non-permanent staff.” It is about following legal guidelines to separate how regular employees are treated from how temporary staff are treated. And bonus payments are one of many ways that organizations treat regular employees differently, along with not including temps in employee meetings, inviting them to company celebrations, paying for them to attend training or conferences, including them in team building activities, buying them lunches, paying them directly from the company payroll, telling them when and where to show up, etc. Some organizations do some of these things for temporary workers, and that can be a legal tightrope. When organizations don’t offer these “benefits”, it is not about how they feel about those workers; it is about distinguishing the temporary workforce from regular employees in the eyes of the courts. It’s not meant to be an insult. It might feel bad to be treated differently, but it’s not a deliberate attempt to slight temporary workers. Most employees don’t really understand these issues and unfortunately it is human nature to ascribe evil intent to behaviors and rules we don’t understand. There is no evil intent, just following labor guidelines and advice from labor attorneys.

            1. Anna*

              I worked as a temp for a fairly large company. You know what we were allowed to do? Go to the holiday party with the rest of the staff. What we weren’t allowed to do? Go to the quarterly state of the business meetings because they weren’t really any of our business. So, if they’re trying to distinguish between the benefits received by perm and non-perm employers, I think they’re making the distinction in a very odd way.

              1. BCW*

                I feel like thats a weird comparison. You are basically saying that they should be able to do the fun stuff, but not be able to do the boring stuff. I can tell you as a permanent employee, there are plenty of quarterly business meetings I’d love to get out of. So its not a real correlation. Again, I’m sure if I were on that side, it would feel bad, but its not like they aren’t giving them a holiday party, its just a separate one.

  13. Lia*

    Years ago, I worked in a factory that was about 70% staff and 30% temps. The temps were forbidden from using the break room microwaves and were only permitted to use one of the 3 refrigerators in there. Signs were posted all over mentioning these rules. I was a temp, but became friendly with one of the staff members who told me “it used to be worse for temps. Previously, they were not allowed to use the break room, and had to eat outside or in their cars”. Morale there was not so good…I was glad when the summer ended and with it, my temp contract there.

      1. Anonymous*

        Cause that’s TOTALLY the same thing. People can change their work situations. Not so much their skin color.

  14. PPK*

    I worked as a temp at a factory for a company that made shampoo, lotion, cosmetics, etc. The full time employees got to buy “seconds” (bad labels, not full, etc) once every two weeks at an extra discount. As temps we did not. I did feel the green eyes of jealousy. But I did understand that we’re temps and that’ s just how it worked. Of course, the temps were much more transitory. We had to call in every day to check being needed the next day. It just so happened to be my summer job so I was there everyday they wanted me.

  15. Anonymous*

    Years ago, I was a temporary employee at a clothing distribution center (hired by the company, not an agency) and they set out ginger cookies and apple cider in the common area. I helped myself along with everyone else and was quickly reprimended by the HR lady that “those are only for permanent employees”.

    1. A Bug!*

      I can’t imagine being that HR person. Okay, I can imagine it, but I feel guilty just thinking about being so weird and exclusionary about something as minor as cookies and cider. If the company was that hard up for cash that they couldn’t afford cookies for everybody, they probably should have skipped it entirely.

      I mean, cookies and cider, for real? The more extensive examples described elsewhere are more understandable, but it’s hard to see this one as anything other than a slap in the face to temps.

      1. Chinook*

        When it comes to denying food to those who don’t “deserve”it, I will believe anything. The school where I worked burne down. We evacuated the building at 11 am and then had 400 students and staff at a local rec centre while we figured how to sign everyone out to legal guardians. Someone brought food for the kids (grades K-12) and I grabbed a juice box. One of the ladies snapped “it’s for the kids.” I glared at her and replied, “my lunch is also burning and I am going to be here until the kids all go home.” It never dawned on them that there were adults in the school too?

    2. Jamie*

      Wow. Even though I completely understand drawing the distinction – this is just mean.

      When we have cookouts our temps get burgers and dogs the same as everyone else…we are just careful about how it’s referenced.

      And ginger cookies are delicious and it makes me sad that people are using them for evil.

    3. At Work Going Anon*

      Well we had an ‘appreciation’ day for us largely donated by our clients. The left over food was put in the employee break area fridge, well after a few of us helped ourselves to the a couple crackers and cheese—after all it was suppose to be a whole week of appreciation for us—within a few minutes, the director comes out and take the platters in her office and put up a note ‘in a meeting don’t not disturb’

  16. Maggie*

    A long time ago I was a teachers aid in an elementary school. The Christmas parties were for teachers only, they were very clear about this. Aids were not welcome. Also each year one week was set aside as Teacher Appreciation Week…and one day was Staff Appreciation Day. They sure wanted the aids to work our tails off but they didn’t want to acknowledge us as human beings.

  17. At Work Going Anon*

    This makes me think about preferential treatment at work. When does it go too far. Like, to what extent should ‘good’ employees be rewarded. Here I see that the their example of ‘good’ workers are the ones who are less willing to work together, tattle and complain more about others. They only care about their small part. They contribute less to the totality of the work we do yet they are rewarded constantly because they brown nose…

    Just recently my team and another team attended an event unpaid that no other team attended, yet we weren’t even thanked for our time and contribution. Granted when things affect us, we speak up and don’t just go with it without asking questions. But when we’re needed we are there.
    I don’t think we’re ‘bad’ employees, I think our supervisors resent us for speaking up and we resent them for not showing appreciation. So I think it would be virtually impossible for us to earn the rewards because the system is flawed…

  18. Rayner*

    I refuse to believe the argument that not inviting full time/’seasonal’ employees is a procedural thing, and not a cultural thing splitting this lot and that lot.

    Probably not intended as a bad thing (to the contrary, I should imagine), but I point blank refuse to believe that somehow, by inviting people to the party and giving them a nice meal – not necessarily cash prizes as they are a changing type of worker you are, apparently – but just the experience, you are making them an entirely different kind of worker.

    That is, in my opinion, bullcookies.

    It’s tacky, it’s demoralising and it’s bad practice .

    1. anon-2*

      Rayner, it **IS** a cultural thing.

      Perhaps management is too stupid to realize the destruction in morale when they do something like this.

      What’s mystifying – why have TWO parties? Why not just invite the temps to the first one? Unless – they want to let people know their place.

    2. Jamie*

      It isn’t that there is law per se of not allowing temps at the company party. It’s that in order to avoid classaction lawsuits (google class action and permatemps and you’ll see quite a few) a company runs the risk of losing in court if the temp workers have been treated in an identical manner to the permanent employees. The party is just one aspect of that and some companies err on the side of caution.

      This kind of thing happens in some manufacturing plants (not mine) where corporate has a different party than the factory workers. And in the OPs instance she said it’s a splashy party with evening dress.

      I work in a plant. A lot of people don’t have evening dress. Heck, I just went to a wedding and bought a new outfit and my husband needed a new suit. For a basic suit it was $400 +, then shirt, shoes, tie…my outfit was reasonable but the two of us together it was close to $700 and that’s not doing anything fancy.

      A lot of factory workers, even those making better money, would not enjoy having to drop several hundred dollars to dress for a fancy party where they get to mingle with corporate.

      I can’t imagine it’s that different with temp workers – I temped and I would have been outraged if I had been expected to dress up – and not everyone has a closet full of evening wear that fits and is occasion appropriate.

      I’m just saying there is a cost to the attendees of the fancy parties as well and not everyone can afford it. If you’re making $12-$15 per hour and have a couple of kids and it’s Christmas time the last thing you want to do is feel obligated to trot to Men’s Warehouse to drop a couple hundy to impress your boss.

      Now if you want to argue that the fancy parties are a horrible nightmare I’m right there with ya. My place does a catered lunch for everyone (hourly people paid to attend – it’s on the clock) and end of year money is put into bonuses and not into high end parties…for which they have my endless appreciation.

      But if I had to venture a guess I’d say it’s a very small percentage of temps or factory workers who are dying to get into the fancy bash.

      1. Jamie*

        runs the risk of losing in court if the temp workers have been treated in an identical manner to the permanent employees

        with the exception of payroll.

      2. Jamie*

        Oh and if it’s true evening dress for men, renting a tux will set you back a couple of hundy as well. There is no cheap way to attend that unless you have appropriate evening wear at home already.

      3. Rayner*

        I’m not arguing about the costs of the attendees going – that’s not my argument at all. Your opinion – perfect valid for that. (Also, I mostly agree with you.)

        My point is they’re not given the option and it creates a line that is entirely arbitrary and means nothing except that the seasonal workers don’t feel motivated and don’t necessarily feel like they’re getting a similar amount of recognition for the amount work they do, and people are saying it’s because of ‘legal reasons’.

        Which I feel is basically hiding from the fact that it’s pretty sucktastic to say “Swanky party for you,” and “crappy buffet for you.” If this is the place where the company is drawing the line, rather than carefully considering EVERYTHING ELSE that comes into deciding if the workers are ‘proper or not’, then it’s crappy.

        End of.

        1. S R*

          Also, for the legal ramifications of a party (leaving out all bonuses), I would guess that for a swanky party like what’s mentioned, spouses/dates are invited. Spouses/dates who you wouldn’t assume worked for the company hosting the party. Legally, that’s another person who doesn’t work for the company, so wouldn’t that be the same as someone who is a contract employee (who is technically working for a contracting firm)?

          And, even if the company wants to keep things strictly by the books policy-wise, it would go a long way if culturally there was an effort to lessen the sting of the distinction. I work as a permatemp at a company that uses permatemps by the bucketload. They’d even been sued over the permatemp thing, created a new system so they could avoid it…only to go right back to institutionally abusing the system. And it’s well understood that the company has to make certain distinctions: the contractors aren’t dumb, we know what we signed up for. However, the difference between full-timers and contractors varies widely from team to team: some teams treat contractors like trash, others follow the letter of the law but make a real effort to make the contractors feel that they are still respected and valued, even if the company wants to make a distinction in their treatment. Higher-level things like company party policies, or lower-level things like encouraging full-timers on your team to give up +1s so contractors can come.

          Basically, people who employ contractors/seasonal workers/temps/whatever-you-want-to-call-thems decide how those non-full-time employees are treated, institutionally, yes, but more important: culturally. There are legal advantages to creating distinctions between different types of workers, yes, but there are no advantages for perpetuating a workplace caste system in their company culture.

  19. Donna*

    I am currently a Full-Time Contractor at a large natinwide company. Contractors are not permitted to attend any even or meeting that would give them the ability to be classified as a Permanent employee, they hold two seperate Holiday parties, one is for Vendors, which Contract employees are invited to attend, and the other is for the Permanent employees only. AFter reading the HR policies regarding this sepeartion, I understand the need for it, why shouls a company open itself to legal issues. Although, the Vendor party is held at a nice location, with awesome food and an open bar, it is not as lavish as the Company Party, but its nothing to sneeze at either. We are also not able to receive awards for our work, but again, company policy is very clear on why. So I continue my hard work, and wait patiently for the opportunity to be hired on as a Permanent employee.

  20. godiva de maus*

    Honestly, I thought most companies did away with the swanky bashes years and years ago (at least around the holidays). I worked for a Fortune 500 company that opted instead to focus on the annual picnic which included the employee’s entire family and yes, it cost a lot to put on and they had managers manning BBQ’s and helping with the buffet line (as well as catered staff). The message they were sending is we thank you.

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